Eighth-Ranked UCLA Heads to Nebraska for Ameritas Players Challenge

Sept. 9, 2009

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Thursday, Sept. 10
2:30 p.m. PT - #8 UCLA vs. BYU

Friday, Sept. 11
2:30 p.m. PT - #8 UCLA vs. Virginia

Sunday, Sept. 13
12 p.m. PT - #8 UCLA at #5 Nebraska

Live stats for all three matches, free live audio and video for Nebraska match

For the fourth time in the last five years, the Bruins will travel to the state of Nebraska, this weekend heading to the Cornhusker State for the Ameritas Players Challenge. Eighth-ranked UCLA (5-1) faces BYU (4-3) on Thursday and Virginia (4-2) on Friday, with both matches starting at 2:30 p.m. PT at the NU Coliseum. After an off day on Saturday, the Bruins play #5 Nebraska (5-1) on Sunday at 12 p.m. PT at the Devaney Center. Live stats will be available for all three matches on the schedule page of UCLABruins.com, while live audio and video will be available for free for the Nebraska contest.

The Bruins moved up to eighth in this week's AVCA poll, earning 59 additional points following their 3-0 weekend at the Alexis Park Classic in Las Vegas. UCLA has received more points than the week prior in both regular-season rankings. The Bruins are the second-highest rated Pac-10 team in the poll behind third-ranked Washington. UCLA also moved up two positions to ninth in this week's Volleyball Magazine rankings. In the Pac-10 Preseason Coaches poll, the Bruins were ranked fourth behind Washington, California and Stanford.

All UCLA home matches, along with road contests at Pepperdine (Sept. 16), against Long Beach State in Fullerton (Sept. 19) and at USC (Nov. 6), will feature live audio broadcasts at UCLABruins.com. 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. Links can be found on the schedule page of UCLABruins.com.

The Bruins' Sept. 19 match against Fordham at the Brea Embassy Suites Fullerton Classic has been changed to a 1:30 p.m. start time. The contest was originally scheduled to begin at 11 a.m.

UCLA will be making its eighth trip to Nebraska since 1991 this weekend, including its fourth appearance in the last five years. The Bruins are 8-6 in the state of Nebraska, posting a 7-4 record in Lincoln and a 1-2 mark in Omaha. Eight of the 14 contests have come during regular-season tournaments, in which UCLA holds a 6-2 record. The Bruins are 2-4 in postseason matches. UCLA's last appearance in the Cornhusker State came in 2007 at the AVCA Showcase in Omaha, as the Bruins defeated Utah and lost to Nebraska. Each of the last three UCLA matches have been played in Omaha, with the most recent contest in Lincoln coming in 2005, a Regional Semifinal loss to the Huskers.

BYU went 2-1 at its own Nike Classic in Provo, Utah, beating Cal Poly in five and Weber State in three before dropping a five-set heartbreaker to #23 Kansas State. Three of the Cougars' seven matches this season have gone five sets. BYU is hitting .221 as a team, averaging 0.96 aces and 2.57 blocks per set. Senior right side hitter Kayla Walker leads the team in kills per set at 3.82, also averaging 1.96 digs per set. Junior middle blocker Christina Measom is second with 2.07 kps, while freshman middle blocker Nicole Warner is first with 1.29 bps. Junior Kiana Rogers handles the setting duties and averages 9.25 assists per set, while senior Morgan Lloyd Sorensen is first in dps at 3.04. BYU returned eight letterwinners and four starters from a 2008 squad that went 14-12 and placed sixth in the Mountain West Conference with a 7-9 record. The Bruins own a 22-5 all-time series advantage against the Cougars, winning the most recent meeting on Sept. 18, 2004 in Provo in four sets. BYU pulled off a three-set sweep of UCLA on Dec. 10, 1993 in Westwood to advance to the Final Four, which was its last win against the Bruins. Prior to that loss, the Bruins had won six straight against the Cougars. UCLA is 9-1 in neutral-site matches against BYU.

After dropping its first two matches of the season, Virginia has won four in a row against Iona, North Carolina Central, Virginia Commonwealth and Campbell. The Cavaliers are hitting .259 as a team, averaging 1.60 aces and 1.52 blocks per set. Senior outside hitter Lauren Dickson (3.80 kps, 2.45 dps) and sophomore outside Simone Asque (3.25, 2.15 dps) are each averaging above three kills and two digs per set. Freshman setter Rachel Gray quarterbacks the offense, recording 9.40 assists per set, while junior AJ Cushman is the top digger at 3.05 dps. Virginia, which returned nine letterwinners and five starters from last year, were 17-15 in 2008 and ninth in the Atlantic Coast Conference with a 9-5 record. The Bruins are 2-0 against the Cavaliers, including a three-set sweep last Sept. 19 in Evanston, Ill. Katie Camp led the Bruins in that match with 13 kills. The first meeting between the teams came in 1998 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Santa Barbara, as UCLA won in four sets.

Nebraska has won five straight since a season-opening defeat to Michigan, knocking off Minnesota and LSU in five sets and sweeping Creighton, Louisiana-Lafayette and Tulane. The Huskers are hitting .229 as a team with 0.86 aces and 2.75 blocks per set. Nebraska spreads the offense around with five players averaging at least two kills per set. Junior outside hitter Tara Mueller leads the way with 3.37 kps to go along with 2.79 digs per set. Following Mueller are freshman outside Hannah Werth (2.47), junior right side hitter Lindsey Licht (2.32), sophomore middle blocker Brooke Delano (2.26) and freshman outside hitter Gina Mancuso (2.23). Delano is the top blocker at 1.37 bps, junior Sydney Anderson handles the setting, recording 9.76 assists per set, and junior Kayla Banwarth is the top digger at 4.82 dps. In what has become almost a yearly battle over the last decade, the Bruins and the Huskers have faced off every year of the `00's with the exception of 2002, 2004 and 2008. Nebraska holds a 9-3 all-time advantage against UCLA, winning three in a row. In the last meeting at the 2007 AVCA Showcase in Omaha, the Huskers claimed a 3-1 victory. The most recent matchup in Lincoln came in a Regional Semifinal in 2005, with the Huskers sweeping the Bruins. UCLA's last victory against Nebraska was a 3-1 triumph in Lincoln in the 2003 Regional Semis. The Bruins are 2-3 all-time in Lincoln against the Huskers.

Sophomore Amanda Gil was named the Most Valuable Player of last weekend's Alexis Park Classic, averaging 2.89 kills, 1.89 blocks and 1.22 digs per set with a .412 hitting percentage to help the Bruins to sweeps of UNLV, Loyola Marymount and Idaho. Joining Gil on the All-Tournament Team were junior Dicey McGraw, who averaged 3.78 kps and 2.33 dps and sophomore Lainey Gera, who posted 3.56 dps and a team-best four service aces. Gil has been named to a pair of All-Tournament Teams this season, also earning honors at the Chevron Rainbow Wahine Invitational in Honolulu two weeks ago. Joining Gil on the opening weekend's All-Tournament Team was freshman Lauren Cook.

The Bruins' go-to hitter for the first two weekends of the season has been junior Dicey McGraw, who leads the Bruins with 3.67 kills per set and 159 attempts. McGraw has led UCLA in kills in three of its six matches, including a season-high 16 against Loyola Marymount on Saturday. The junior opened up the season with 12 kills and a career-best .500 hitting percentage against Santa Clara on Aug. 28, adding 12 more kills against Hawai'i on Aug. 30. Last weekend at the Alexis Park Classic, McGraw had nine kills in the opener against UNLV on Friday and had a big performance in a doubleheader on Saturday. After recording 16 kills and eight digs against Loyola Marymount in Saturday's first match, McGraw nearly recorded her fifth career double-double against Idaho, falling one kill short with nine to go along with 10 digs. For her efforts, the junior was named to the All-Tournament Team. In addition to her prowess on the offensive end of things for the Bruins, McGraw has been superb on defense. She is third on the team with 1.83 digs and 0.72 blocks per set. Last season, McGraw was second on the team in kps (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.

Sophomore Amanda Gil was named Most Valuable Player of last weekend's Alexis Park Classic, averaging 2.89 kills, 1.89 blocks and 1.22 digs per set with a .412 hitting percentage in sweeps of UNLV, Loyola Marymount and Idaho. Gil led the Bruins in blocks in all three matches and has been the top blocker in five straight. The sophomore had a season-best seven roofs and tied a career high with six digs against the host Rebels on Friday, adding eight kills and only one error in 15 attempts for a .467 hitting percentage. Gil followed that up with 10 kills, a .471 hitting percentage and six blocks against Loyola Marymount on Saturday and concluded the weekend with eight kills and four blocks against Idaho. The sophomore has been named to a pair of All-Tournament Teams after also earning honors at the season-opening Chevron Rainbow Wahine Invitational. Gil had seven kills and a .545 hitting percentage in the first match of the year against Santa Clara on Aug. 28 and added seven kills and six blocks against Hawai'i on Aug. 30. On the season, Gil is tops on the team in bps (1.67) and hitting percentage (.385), tied for first with five service aces and second with 2.50 kps. Last year, Gil was named Pacific Region and Pac-10 Freshman of the Year after leading the Bruins with 1.46 blocks per set and a .327 hitting percentage. The 6-foot-6 Gil, who switched to jersey #1 this season and is the tallest player to ever wear that number at UCLA, 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.

It will be a homecoming this weekend for freshman Lauren Cook, as the Nebraska native returns to her hometown for the Ameritas Players Challenge. In her final year at Pius X High School in Lincoln, Cook was the Andi Collins Award winner as the nation's top senior setter and the MaxPreps National Player of the Year. In her first year at UCLA, she has stepped right into the role of setter previously held by three-time All-American Nellie Spicer and helped the Bruins jump out to a 5-1 start. Cook has posted at least 30 assists in five straight matches and is tops on the team with 10.28 assists per set. The freshman was named to the All-Tournament Team at the season-opening Chevron Rainbow Wahine Invitational, recording solid production not only with her setting but also with her kills and blocks. Cook led the Bruins in roofs with four in the opener against Santa Clara on Aug. 28 and added four kills, a feat she has accomplished two more times against Hawai'i (Aug. 30) and UNLV (Sept. 4). Cook's season best in assists came against Western Michigan on Aug. 29 when she had 34. She also had seven digs against the Broncos and equaled that season-best output against Loyola Marymount last Saturday.

Another freshman making an outstanding debut to her collegiate career is Mari Hole, a product of Oslo, Norway. Hole, a superb club and beach player in her native country, is one of three Bruins averaging over two kills per set, coming in at 2.25 kps in only 12 sets. Hole led the Bruins with a season-high 10 kills in last Friday's match against UNLV, swinging at a .412 clip and adding six digs and three blocks. One contest after her first double-figure kills match, Hole had double figures in digs with 10 against Loyola Marymount to go along with six kills. The freshman finished up the weekend with four kills against Idaho. During the opening weekend in Honolulu, Hole appeared in only four sets, but had seven kills, including five in the third set against Western Michigan on Aug. 29. She was a perfect 5-for-5 in the hitting department against the Broncos.

Liberos typically are under the most pressure on the court as they constantly receive either tough serve or kill attempts. The Bruins had a third-team All-American libero in Jessica Fine patrolling the backcourt last season, but have found someone to fill her shoes (and different colored jersey) this season in Lainey Gera. The sophomore has double figures in digs in four of her last five matches and is tops on the team with 3.61 digs per set. Gera was named to the Alexis Park Classic All-Tournament Team last weekend, averaging 3.56 dps and posting four service aces. After recording nine digs against UNLV on Friday, Gera went for double figures in both matches on Saturday, notching 10 against Loyola Marymount and 13 against Idaho. She had at least one service ace in all three contests, tallying a pair against Idaho. During the opening weekend at the Chevron Invitational, Gera had a pair of 14-dig matches against Western Michigan (Aug. 29) and Hawai'i (Aug. 30). Against the Rainbow Wahine, she also added a career-high seven assists. 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. In the serving department, she had a season-high three aces at California on Nov. 21 and had two aces in three more matches.

After missing the entire 2008 season due to shoulder surgery, senior outside hitter Kaitlin Sather is getting back into the swing of things and has posted a pair of 10-kill matches during the first two weeks of the year. Last Saturday, Sather paced the Bruins' balanced attack with 10 kills, adding five digs in a sweep of Idaho. In her first match on Saturday, the senior had a team-high 13 digs for her 38th career double-figure digs contest. Sather, who is second on the team with 2.11 digs per set, has posted at least five digs in five of six matches. Sather sits fifth on the squad in kills per set at 1.83. She led the Bruins in kills against Western Michigan on Aug. 29 with 10. Sather has 71 double-figure kills matches for her career as she continues to move up the UCLA all-time chart in kills. She surpassed the 1,200-kill mark last weekend and enters this week with 1,202 as a Bruin. Sather stands 19th all-time and will move into 18th place this weekend and pass Jenny Johnson, who had 1,212 kills at UCLA. The redshirt senior is also closing in on the 1,000-dig mark, entering the Ameritas Players Challenge with 837. She is on pace to become only the 12th Bruin to reach 1,000 in both kills and digs. In her last full season in 2007, Sather 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. 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.

Battling a terrible flu for the first two weekends of the season, sophomore Katie Camp has played in just nine of a possible 18 sets. But when she has made it onto the court, Camp has played well, ranking fourth on the team with 1.89 kills per set. The sophomore's season high in kills this season came in the opener against Santa Clara when she had six. Camp played only one set apiece in matches against Hawai'i (Aug. 30) and UNLV (Sept. 4), but had three and four kills, respectively, and did not have a hitting error in either contest. Last season, Camp finished second on the team 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.

Sophomore Sara Sage continues to be a force at the net for the Bruins, entering this week's play second on the team with 1.36 blocks per set. Sage has a pair of four-block contests against Western Michigan (Aug. 29) and Idaho last Saturday. She also had three roofs in the season opener against Santa Clara on Aug. 28. In the kills department, Sage had a season-high eight against Western Michigan, recording no errors in 11 attempts for a .727 hitting percentage. Her high last weekend came against Idaho when she posted four kills. On the season, Sage is averaging 1.64 kills per set. After battling injuries early on during her freshman campaign of 2008, 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.

Through the first two weeks of the season, freshman Bojana Todorovic has shown she can do a little bit of everything on the court. Todorovic enters the week averaging 1.69 digs and 0.81 kills per set. She started all three matches at last weekend's Alexis Park Classic, recording four digs, four kills and no errors in eight attempts against Idaho on Saturday. The four kills matched a season high, which she also had against Western Michigan (Aug. 29), posting no errors in six swings against the Broncos. Defensively, Todorovic has at least four digs in five of six matches, including a season-high seven against Santa Clara on Aug. 28. The freshman is also tied for the team lead with five service aces. Todorovic was a four-time All-City player at University High School in Irvine and was named to Volleyball Magazine's Fab 50.

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