NCAA Women’s Volleyball Playoffs : Loyola Marymount Defeats UCLA in Stunning Upset
The UCLA women’s volleyball team, an up-and-down group for most of the season, went down and out of the NCAA playoffs Saturday night in a stunning upset.
Unranked Loyola Marymount, coming back after losing the first two games and trailing, 7-2, in the fifth, gave the seventh-ranked Bruins their quickest playoff exit ever with a dramatic 1-15, 9-15, 15-8, 15-12, 16-14 victory before a crowd of 1,153 at UCLA’s Wooden Center.
It was one case where seeing didn’t necessarily mean believing.
“It probably didn’t happen,” UCLA Coach Andy Banachowski said afterwards, hoping it was all just a nightmare.
“I can’t believe it. This was probably our best week of practice all year and we came ready to play. Those first two games were as good as we’ve ever played, at least the first was.”
Even then, despite the Game 1 score, Loyola was in the match. A seven-point run with Sharyl Bilas serving was the only real Bruin domination, and there wasn’t much to speak of in the second, either.
The Lions took control in Game 3 with a 7-0 spurt of their own, with Maryanne Dunn serving, to go up, 12-3. They closed it out soon after and then set up the deciding game with a win in the fourth.
Any momentum the upstarts from down the freeway may have had was lost early in Game 5, when UCLA took a 6-0 lead, increased it to 7-2 and then held on at 10-7 and 13-9 before Loyola, bolstered by a partisan crowd, roared back. It only made the comeback that much more improbable.
Leslie Wohlford tied it, 13-13, with an ace and, after a side out, the Lions took the lead at 14-13. UCLA came back to make it 14-14 before Dunn’s block at the net on Lori Zeno gave the serve to Loyola for the final time. At 15-14, Cathy Petrissans’ block off a Bilas miss-hit sent much of the crowd streaming on to the court, where the players and Coach Nancy Fortner were mobbed, Fortner getting hoisted on the shoulders of a couple fans.
“We fought and fought,” Fortner said. “We’ve beat other teams that were ranked. We knew we were ready for the match, we were prepared and did everything we had to do. We just had to get by those first-game jitters and to know that we could compete with that (UCLA) team. Once we got over that hump--and it was a big hump--we were OK.
“I think one of the things that helped us win was that UCLA has a lot of top individual players. Our team is stronger because we play together, so that makes us stronger as a team.”
Or, as junior outside hitter Tiffany Miller said: “We played as a team and they played as individuals.”
The UCLA season, for the players and the team, is over, at 31-10, the first time the in Banachowski’s 20 years that the Bruins will not make at least the regional finals.
For Loyola, the WCAC champion with a 24-7 record, it’s on to Provo, Utah, for the West Regionals Thursday against Stanford. The winner of that match will face either Arizona State or host Brigham Young for a spot in the Final Four in Stockton.