Ninth-Ranked Bruins Begin 2009 Campaign in Honolulu

Aug. 25, 2009

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Friday, Aug. 28
8 p.m. PT - #9 UCLA vs. #25 Santa Clara

Saturday, Aug. 29
8 p.m. PT - #9 UCLA vs. Western Michigan

Sunday, Aug. 30
8 p.m. PT - #9 UCLA at #7 Hawai'i

Live stats for all three matches, Live audio (Hawai'i only)

The ninth-ranked Bruins begin the 2009 schedule with three tough matches at the Chevron Rainbow Wahine Invitational in Honolulu, Hawaii. On Friday, UCLA faces 25th-ranked Santa Clara, followed by a Saturday matchup against 2008 Regional Semifinalist Western Michigan. The big showdown comes on Sunday when the Bruins tussle with #7 Hawai'i, a Regional Finalist last season. All matches will be played at 8 p.m. PT. Links to live stats for all three contests and live audio for the Hawai'i match can be found on the schedule page of

The Bruins are ranked ninth in the preseason AVCA poll and 10th in the initial Volleyball Magazine rankings. Nine of the other Top 24 teams in the AVCA rankings are on UCLA's schedule, including two during the opening weekend. In addition, three other teams that are receiving votes in the AVCA poll are on the Bruins' slate. In the Pac-10 Preseason Coaches poll, the Bruins are ranked fourth behind Washington, California and Stanford.

UCLA has won 10 straight season openers after sweeping Ohio in Honolulu last year. Seven of the 10 matches have been sweeps. This year marks the second straight season that UCLA has opened the year in Hawaii. The Bruins had began their season in Honolulu for 11 of 13 seasons from 1991 to 2003 before opening on the mainland from 2004 to 2007. The Bruins are 10-2 in season openers in Hawaii.

Since 1974 with the inception of the Hawaii women's volleyball program, UCLA has traveled to Honolulu at least once each year for 33 of the past 36 campaigns, including every season since 1980. The Bruins are 56-30 (.651) in matches played in Honolulu and 36-5 (.878) in matches against teams other than Hawai'i (UCLA is 20-25 at UH). UCLA has been part of a tournament in the Aloha State every year since 1988 and is 47-16 (.746) in its previous 21 Hawaii tourneys. Eleven of those 16 losses have come at the hands of the Rainbow Wahine. The Bruins have gone undefeated in Hawaii tournaments eight times.

Santa Clara finished 18-10 last season, tying for fourth in the West Coast Conference with an 8-6 mark. The Broncos return eight letterwinners and three starters from a team that advanced to the second round of last year's NCAA Tournament. Junior Krista Kelley will pace the offense after averaging 2.31 kills per set last season. Handling the setting duties is senior Lindsy Davigeadono, who averaged 10.74 assists and 1.29 digs per set in 2008. The Bruins have played the Broncos three times, with the last matchup coming in Honolulu. UCLA prevailed with a 3-0 victory on Sept. 9, 2004. The Bruins won the first meeting on Sept. 14, 1984 in Fullerton by a 2-0 score, while the Broncos claimed the second matchup on Sept. 16, 1998 in Santa Clara (3-1).

The Bruins' second matchup against the Broncos this weekend will feature a tilt with Western Michigan, which went 28-7 overall, won the Mid-American Conference with a 14-2 mark and advanced to the Regional Semifinals in 2008. The Broncos return all seven starters from last year's squad, led by junior Michelle Moore, who averaged 3.89 kills and 2.23 digs per set. Junior Katie Eberling (2.77 kps, 2.90 dps) and sophomore Allyson Doyle (2.29 kps, 2.98 dps) also return. Handling the setting is senior Jillian Mitchell, who posted 11.40 assists and 2.18 digs per set, while junior Caitlin Strimel is the top digger at 5.13 dps. The Bruins have swept the Broncos in each of their three meetings. UCLA last beat Western Michigan on Aug. 26, 2006 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Bruins also swept the Broncos in the NCAA Regional Final in West Lafayette, Ind. on Dec. 9, 1983 and in Kalamazoo, Mich. on Nov. 30, 1985.

Hawai'i brings back nine letterwinners and four starters from a 2008 squad that went 31-4 overall, tied for first in the Western Athletic Conference with a 15-1 record and advanced to the Regional Final. The top offensive returners are sophomore Kanani Danielson, who averaged 3.02 kills and 2.91 digs per set, senior Aneli Cubi-Otineru (2.41 kps, 2.28 dps) and senior Amber Kaufman (2.10 kps, 54 aces). Junior Dani Mafua is the returning setter after averaging 11.20 assists per set last season.

The Bruins and the Rainbow Wahine have played each other at least once a season since 1974, the first year of women's volleyball at Hawai'i. UCLA narrowly trails the all-time series 34-32, but has won four in a row, tied for the second-longest winning streak against the Rainbow Wahine. The Bruins won the first five of the series (1974-76) and all four matchups in 1978. Hawai'i holds a 25-20 advantage at home, but has dropped four straight at the Stan Sheriff Center after winning four in a row from 2002 to 2005. During the Bruins' current four-match winning streak, they have won 12 of the 13 sets. Following a pair of sweeps in 2006 and another in `07, UCLA came back from dropping the first set last season to defeat the Rainbow Wahine in four.

All UCLA home matches, along with road contests at Pepperdine and USC, will feature live audio broadcasts at Darren Preston and Michael Sondheimer will call all the action. In addition, Gametracker or live stats will be available for all home matches and most road contests.

After missing the entire 2008 season due to shoulder surgery, senior outside hitter Kaitlin Sather is ready to get back on the volleyball court this weekend. Sather carried a heavy workload in her junior campaign of 2007, recording 1,287 attempts, the eighth-highest number of swings in one season at UCLA. The Bruins will be looking for her to produce the similar output she did that season when she led the team with 3.76 kills per set, was second in points per set at 4.35 and third with 28 aces in earning All-Pac-10 honorable mention accolades. She also tied for first with 28 double-figure kills matches and has 69 career contests with at least 10 kills. In her last match in the Regional Final against Stanford on Dec. 8, 2007, Sather recorded a career-high 23 kills, as she earned All-Regional Tournament Team honors. Sather opens up her senior season tied for 19th in UCLA history with 1,169 kills. With something similar to her previous three years in blue and gold, the senior will finish her career in the program's Top 10 in kills. Sather is also on pace to reach the 1,000-dig mark, entering the season with 799, and could become only the 12th Bruin to ever reach 1,000 in both kills and digs. Despite not stepping on the volleyball court last season, Sather hit another playing surface last spring. She was a high jumper for the UCLA track and field team, finishing fourth and fifth in a pair of meets in April and May.

Coming off a season in which she was named Pacific Region and Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, sophomore middle blocker Amanda Gil is back, but in a different number than usual. Wearing uniform #1, the tallest player to ever wear that number at UCLA, the 6-foot-6 Gil led the Bruins with 1.46 blocks per set and a .327 hitting percentage in her initial collegiate season. She finished sixth in the nation in bps and 88th in hitting percentage, while ranking second among Pac-10 players in blocks and sixth in hitting percentage. Gil led the Bruins in blocks 21 times last season, posting a season-best 13 against Oregon on Nov. 1 and adding 13 kills for her first career double-double. Overall, she had 19 matches with at least five blocks and surpassed double figures twice. On offense, Gil was third with 2.54 kills per set, notching double figures in kills a dozen times, which also was third on the team. Gil had a season-best 20 kills at Northwestern on Sept. 20, which tied for the most kills for a Bruin in one match last season. She hit over .400 with at least 10 kills on four occasions, producing a .647 percentage at Cal State Northridge on Sept. 16, and had no attack errors in a match seven times. Gil was one of the most durable Bruins last season, starting all 33 matches and 120 out of a possible 122 sets.

Another fabulous freshman looking to become a sensational sophomore is middle blocker Katie Camp. Last season, Camp finished second on the team to Amanda Gil in hitting percentage at .291 and blocks per set at 1.03 to earn All-Pac-10 Freshman Team honors. She was ninth among conference players in bps and had nine matches with at least five blocks, including season highs of nine at Hawai'i (Aug. 31) and Oregon State (Oct. 4). Offensively, Camp was fifth in kills per set at 2.15. She posted 10 matches with double figures in kills, which ranked fourth on the team, producing a season-best 19 against California on Oct. 24. On seven occasions, Camp posted double figures in kills and at least a .400 hitting percentage. Her season-best in hitting came on Sept. 19 against Virginia, when she had a match-high 13 kills and no errors in 18 attempts for a .722 percentage, the best hitting total by any Bruin last season. Overall, Camp had five matches with at least five kills and no attack errors.

One of only four upperclassmen on the roster this season, junior outside hitter Dicey McGraw will be helping the Bruins not only with her offensive skills on the court but her leadership off it. In her sophomore season of 2008, McGraw was second on the team in kills per set at 2.86 and double-figure kills matches with 20. One of six Bruins to take part in all 33 matches a year ago, McGraw played in 119 out of 122 sets. Two separate times last season, the outside hitter had four consecutive matches with double figures in kills (Sept. 19-26 and Oct. 17-26), posting a double-double (16 kills, 10 digs) during one of those streaks against Northwestern on Sept. 20. McGraw came up huge during the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, leading the Bruins in kills in both contests with 13 to help UCLA to its sixth straight Regional appearance. She had at least 10 kills and a .400 hitting percentage in a match four times a year ago. Aside from her offense, McGraw also helped out on defense, posting at least five digs in a match eight times and tallying at least three blocks in a contest on eight occasions.

Replacing a third-team All-American libero in Jessica Fine will be a tough task for the Bruins, but it is a challenge that sophomore Lainey Gera appears ready to conquer. Playing as one of the team's defensive and serving specialists last season, Gera played in all 33 matches and in 119 sets, averaging 1.97 digs per set (fourth on the team) and producing 17 aces (tied for fourth). She had six double-figure digs contests last season, with her highest output coming at Stanford on Nov. 22 when she had 19. Gera followed that up with a 17-dig effort in her next match against Pepperdine on Nov. 25. A steady performer, Gera had at least five digs in her last 15 contests of the season, crossing double figures three times. In the serving department as a freshman, she had a season-high three aces at California on Nov. 21 and had two aces in three more matches.

Sophomore Sara Sage begins her second season in Westwood in 2009 after completing a successful freshman campaign last year. After battling injuries early on, Sage made a big impact once Pac-10 play began and ended up participating in 26 matches, making 18 starts. Named to the Pac-10 All-Freshman honorable mention team, Sage was third on the team with 0.79 blocks per set and averaged 1.31 kills per set. She had back-to-back great matches at the net against Stanford (Nov. 22) and Pepperdine (Nov. 25), totaling five and a season-best six blocks, respectively. Sage recorded four roofs in five other contests. On offense, she had a season-high nine kills at Cal on Nov. 21, which marked the last of nine consecutive matches where she tallied at least five kills. Sage had a .400 hitting percentage with at least five kills on four occasions, swinging at a season-best .545 clip against Oregon State on Oct. 31.

Having struggled through injuries throughout her career, senior Emily Clements and the Bruins hope that her fourth year is the charm to a healthy season. Adding to the depth on the outside, the left-handed opposite showed flashes of greatness when she was on the floor the last two seasons. In 2007 as a sophomore, Clements was averaging 2.38 kills per set through the first nine matches before suffering an ACL injury. Still battling the after effects of that ailment, Clements averaged 2.30 kps, which was fourth on the team, in 2008 in just 10 matches and 27 sets. Her most impressive match last year came on Oct. 4 at Oregon State, when she recorded career highs in kills (16) and blocks (6). Clements had another standout match in the Bruins' NCAA first-round win over LSU (Dec. 5), posting nine kills and no errors in 13 attempts (.692 hitting percentage) in only two sets.

The biggest question heading into this season was who was going to replace three-time All-American setter Nellie Spicer. The answer at least for the first weekend will be freshman Lauren Cook (Lincoln, Neb./Pius X HS). An Andi Collins Award winner as the nation's top senior high school setter, Cook was the MaxPreps National Player of the Year and named to the Volleyball Magazine's Fab 50. Backing her up at the start will be sophomore Stephanie Nucci, who redshirted in 2007 and played sparingly as Spicer's backup in 2008. Four other Bruin freshmen will be making the trip to Hawai'i this weekend. Three were named to the Volleyball Magazine Fab 50 list, outside hitters Michelle Ketter (Thousand Oaks, Calif./Westlake HS) and Rachael Kidder (Moorpark, Calif./Moorpark HS) and utility player Bojana Todorovic (Irvine, Calif./University HS). Kidder was an AVCA Under Armour All-American as a senior, while Todorovic was a four-year All-City and All-County honoree. Ketter did not complete her 2008 senior season due to injury, but led her league in kills as a junior. The other freshman making the trip is Mari Hole, an outside hitter from Oslo, Norway, who was a superb club and beach player in her native country. Rounding out the 14-player roster for this weekend is sophomore DS/libero Amber McBenttez, who played in one match in 2008.

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