UCLA Coach Andy Banachowski said going into Friday night’s match against New Mexico that it would be fun for the Bruins to play a team they hadn’t faced in 20 years.
Asked what he was thinking when the Bruins were trailing, 12-5, in the fourth game, he responded: “That’s not the kind of fun I was imagining.”
Perhaps that was because the top-ranked Bruins were on the verge of being taken to a decisive fifth game in a match in which they had lost all momentum.
But that changed after Banachowski had called a timeout that appeared to give the Bruins new life.
Utilizing a balanced hitting attack set up by Holly McPeak, UCLA rallied before 1,295 in the Wooden Center to defeat No. 14 New Mexico, 15-8, 11-15, 15-3, 16-14, and advance to tonight’s West Regional final. The Bruins will meet Stanford, which beat San Diego State, 15-11, 13-15, 15-6, 15-1.
“The coaches told us to relax and take a breath and then we all came together,” senior hitter Samantha Shaver said. “Andy said they got their 10 points and now it’s our turn to get ours and we jelled so well after that, nobody could stop us.”
The Bruins (33-1) opened a 2-1 lead by winning the third game in only 14 minutes.
But New Mexico, primarily on the hitting of Maria Gurreri and Australian Sharon Browning, rebounded in the fourth and appeared to have a chance to upset the Bruins.
But after Banachowski’s timeout the Bruins managed to make the score 14-14, getting a point when Pauline Manser’s line shot went wide and winning on Jenny Evans’ kill off of an overset.
Evans was one of four Bruins in double figures in kills with 12. Natalie Williams, who hits opposite Evans, had a team-high 18.
McPeak, ranked 11th nationally in assists, had a game-high 51 against the Lobos.
New Mexico (22-7) came into the match with two players with international experience in Browning and Manser, who along with Gurreri have been relied on heavily all season.
All three were effective Friday night, combining for 47 kills. Bruin Notes
Four Bruins were named to the West Region’s first team, thus qualifying for All-American honors: Holly McPeak, middle-blocker Marissa Hatchett and outside-hitters Jenny Evans and Natalie Williams. . . . Despite its success, UCLA had the lowest attendance of all first-round games in the West Region, with 1,100. Pepperdine at New Mexico drew the most, 3,378. However, the volleyball team did manage to outdraw the women’s basketball team, which was playing in Pauley Pavilion. About 200 watched the Bruins defeat St. Mary’s, 92-80.