Women’s College Volleyball : With Talented Youth, UCLA Quickly Shows It’s Among the Best
The national championship in women’s college volleyball last graced the Southland and UCLA in 1984.
Since then, the University of Pacific has won the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. Division I title twice, and last season Hawaii took its fourth title in nine years.
This season, though, UCLA seemingly is in the best position among Southland schools to retrieve the national title, which, until parity arrived 10 years ago, annually changed hands only in Southern California ZIP codes.
UCLA, ranked fifth nationally in preseason polls, moved up to the top spot this week by defeating No. 1 Hawaii and No. 2 Illinois in winning the Rainbow Classic at Honolulu last weekend. The Bruins beat the Rainbows, the defending national champions, 14-16, 15-11, 15-7, 15-0, handing Hawaii its first game shutout in women’s volleyball history.
Elaine Youngs, a freshman from El Toro High School, served 10 straight points in the final game before Hawaii got the serve. UCLA Coach Andy Banachowski said that Youngs, who was moved from a left-side hitter to middle blocker, has been a key to his team’s quick success. She is one of five new players from local high schools.
UCLA’s top returners include just one senior, setter Ann Boyer, and two sophomores, All-American middle blocker Daiva Tomkus and outside hitter Samantha Shaver. Junior outside hitter Jenny Crocker and freshman left-side hitter Jenny Evans of Newport Harbor High complete a starting lineup that Banachowski had figured would take several more weeks to set.
“It’s happened a lot quicker than I expected, and it is surprising because of the youth we have on the team,” he said.
The Bruins will open conference play Friday night against third-ranked Stanford, the defending Pacific 10 champion.
USC opened the season by defeating its nemesis, No. 13 Colorado State, the team that knocked the Trojans out of postseason play last year in the first round.
Except for that match, the Trojans have had a fairly easy nonconference schedule, and USC is ranked No. 12 nationally. Still, all indications are that the Trojans are better than that.
USC’s entire 1987 starting lineup returns--the same six players who won 10 of their last 14 matches last season in finishing third in the Pac-10. Back are two seniors, outside hitter and team captain Nancy Hillman, and middle blocker Jamie Hatchett; two juniors, outside hitter Yleana Carrasco and setter Christine Brigman; and two sophomores, middle blocker Megan McCallister and outside hitter Lonise Norfleet.
USC will get another big test Saturday, against Stanford at Palo Alto.
Unranked Pepperdine, which was undefeated in the Western Collegiate Athletic Conference last season and finished No. 19 nationally, put itself to the test at the Hawaii tournament last weekend, and came up empty, losing to Hawaii, Illinois and UCLA.
Pepperdine, the WCAC coaches’ pick to win the conference title, has seven players returning, including three starters--all-conference middle blocker Lisa Bevington and outside hitters Barbara Blizzard and Tami Seidenberg.
Three highly regarded freshmen, Cari Delson of Irvine High School, Carolyn Hueth of West Torrance High and Lesli Asplund of Vancouver, Wash., are expected to add depth.
Loyola Marymount, which finished second in the WCAC last year, is at a disadvantage, since it offers only five full scholarships, whereas most top 20 teams offer a dozen. Still, Coach George Yamashita managed to guide his team to a 17-17 overall record last season, his first.
This year, that may not be as easy. The team is young and inexperienced. There are only four experienced players back, including two seniors, all-conference outside hitter Leslie Wohlford and senior setter Seham Khalaf.
Women’s Volleyball Notes
Other area schools to watch are Cal State Long Beach, which features junior Tara Cross, one of the best outside hitters and middle blockers in the Big West Conference; UC Santa Barbara, which is ranked 19th nationally, has three strong returning starters and is perennially a well-coached team under Kathy Gregory; No. 14 San Diego State, which placed second in the 16-team tournament last weekend at Cal State Fullerton; and UC Irvine, which is undefeated at 4-0 in the nonconference season but has yet to play a top 20 team.
In Division II, Cal State Northridge is ranked No. 3 nationally, Cal Poly Pomona No. 12.