Long Beach State's women's volleyball team did not play last week, but the 49ers, ranked sixth in the coaches' poll and seventh by Volleyball magazine, should move up, based on their strong start.
Because No. 4 UCLA lost at Washington State on Saturday, the 49ers (4-1) are expected to replace the Bruins as the Southland's top team under veteran Coach Brian Gimmillaro, who has coached the 49ers to four consecutive Big West Conference titles.
Long Beach State reached the NCAA Northwest Regional final and finished with a 27-6 record last season but had only two starters back, so this was expected to be a rebuilding season.
So far, however, that has not been the case. Brita Schwerm is the team's only senior, but the 49ers' combination of youth and balance has alerted the Big West that Long Beach State is not ready to give up its dominance.
"We have to battle every night until we develop," said Gimmillaro, who has a 284-79 record with the 49ers. "We're really young and not the dominant team we've been the last six years. We have to score in numerous and a variety of ways. We have to hustle for our points."
Because outside hitter Kristin Harris will be sitting out the season with a knee injury and because 10 of the 13 players are either freshmen or sophomores, the 49ers have had to rely heavily on Schwerm.
"It's tough, but it's a role that I've been waiting for," said Schwerm, who after playing in the background her first three seasons leads the 49ers with 117 kills and 81 digs. "We have some very capable freshmen and other younger players and that has made it easier for me."
Highly recruited Misty May, last year's national high school player of the year at Newport Harbor, has played a key role since moving from outside hitter to setter, the first freshman to start at the position since 1986.
"She relatively has no experience playing there," Gimmillaro said. "But she's becoming a better setter every day."
May leads the team with 18 aces off her jump serve.
Long Beach State will play its first Big West match Thursday at New Mexico State.
The UCLA women's volleyball team struggled over the weekend in gaining a split against Washington State and Washington, but the Bruins may have the hottest player in the country in Kim Krull.
Krull, a junior middle blocker, dominated with 44 kills, 14 blocks, 11 digs and four aces in the two matches. She had a career-high 28 kills in the Bruins' victory over Washington on Sunday.
UCLA plays host to California on Friday and defending national champion Stanford on Saturday in a rematch of last year's NCAA championship match.
The UCLA women's golf team won and Jenny Park finished second individually in the Fall Preview at La Quinta. The Bruins had a three-day total of 879 in beating two-time defending national champion Arizona State and San Jose State, those teams finishing in a tie for second at 890. Park had a 54-hole total of 216. Freshman Kelli Kuehne of Texas, the U.S. Amateur champion, was the individual winner with a five-under-par 211.
Pepperdine's women's volleyball team is off to its best start in five seasons after defeating Fresno State and 16th-ranked San Diego State. The Waves, who finished below .500 the last two seasons, are 8-1 under Coach Nina Matthies. . . . UCLA junior Shelley Taylor, who was sitting out this cross-country season, has decided not to compete for the Bruins but will remain a student at UCLA, according to assistant coach Eric Peterson. Taylor, who attended Edison High in Huntington Beach, transferred from Arkansas last year and won the Pacific-10 Conference 5,000 meters in May for the Bruins.
UCLA's second-ranked men's soccer team ran its record to 4-1 with a 1-0 victory over San Francisco on Saturday. The Bruin women's team will play host to USC today at 1:30 p.m.