WOMEN’S VOLLEYBALL NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS : UCLA Women Strike Fast, Breeze to Title
The UCLA women’s volleyball team, grabbing the momentum at the start, defeated Pacific, 15-9, 15-12, 15-7, Saturday night at the University of Maryland’s Cole Field House to win the NCAA championship.
The No. 1-ranked Bruins, who finished the season 36-1, won their fifth national title--but first since 1984--with ease after starting off with six rapid-fire points.
“I’m just elated with the way things turned out,” UCLA Coach Andy Banachowski said. “This team just put everything together and played an exceptional match.”
When senior co-captain and defensive specialist Traci Broadway stepped to the service line to begin the match, neither the crowd of 5,314 nor the Tigers (30-7) could be prepared for the stunning outburst.
A devastating block by Samantha Shaver and Marissa Hatchett got the Bruins going. Six points later, the scoring streak sparked by another block and a kill by Hatchett, the shaken Tigers called timeout in a desperate attempt to regroup.
“I think I was serving particularly well,” Broadway said. ‘My rotation was one of the lowest scoring this year, so I was coming out serving hard. I had nothing to lose.”
The intense blocking set the tone for the remainder of the match, Hatchett said.
“We have been concentrating on blocking a lot,” she said. “We wanted to come in early and establish it, then maintain the blocking.”
Pacific managed four consecutive points midway through the first game, before a pair of net violations halted the comeback try, giving UCLA the first game, 15-9.
“There was nothing we could do about it,” Pacific Coach John Dunning said. “We stuck to our game plan, but they were on a mission. They probably blocked us the most times ever in a three-game match.”
UCLA finished with 18 blocks, one off its season best.
Pacific was far more competitive in the second game, which featured five lead changes. After another tandem block by Hatchett and Shaver put the Bruins ahead, 12-8, Pacific outside hitter Krissy Fifer took over, with two massive kills and a block that propelled the Tigers into a 12-12 tie before UCLA scored the final three points of the game.
UCLA then built a 9-1 lead to open the third and deciding game. But when Pacific tried to threaten with four consecutive points, Williams had two blocks to prevent Pacific’s attempt at a run.
“I felt more pressure Thursday night (in the semifinal match against LSU),” Shaver said. “I didn’t feel nervous tonight. We all were really loose.”
Hatchett and tournament most valuable player Natalie Williams each finished with 12 kills to lead the Bruins. Krissy Fifer paced the Tigers with a match-best 13 kills.