Bruins, Waves go at it in semis
The match is a replay of last year's NCAA tourney final
CIRCUMSTANCE dictated it the first time.
A bit of superstition has made it mandatory now.
UCLA volleyball coach Al Scates didn't have time to change out of his coat and tie prior to his team's match against Long Beach State on March 31. That was eight matches -- and eight victories -- ago.
Don't expect Scates to be back in his more casual attire tomorrow when resurgent UCLA (22-12) faces Pepperdine (17-7) in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation's first semifinal at the Bren Center in Irvine, Calif. (2 p.m. Hawaii time). It will be all business in what is the rematch of last year's NCAA championship won by the Waves at Pauley Pavilion.
Pepperdine won both meetings with UCLA this season, a sweep at Pauley and a four-gamer at Firestone Fieldhouse. As Hawaii found out last Saturday, the Bruins are a different team than the one the Warriors took two from last month.
"We're healthy and we are playing well right now," Scates said after UCLA upset then-No. 2 Hawaii in four. "I'm eager to play these teams that beat up on us earlier in the year. Hawaii did, Pepperdine did and Long Beach. So did Irvine.
"It's good to have extra chances against these teams."
Should the Bruins get past the Waves for their 11th consecutive victory, they'll face the winner of tomorrow's second semifinal between No. 1 UC Irvine (27-3) and Long Beach State (22-9), The Anteaters won both of their matches against the 49ers -- who replaced Hawaii at No. 2 in this week's poll -- in four.
"UCLA is clearly improved," said UCI coach John Speraw, his team on a 21-match winning streak. "But each team (left in the semifinals) presents its own challenges and all are playing well at this point of the season. It's not easy for anyone the rest of the way.
"My goal is to get my players to play the best over the next 10 days."
That run would give UCI not only its first NCAA title but also the Anteaters' first appearance in the final four. Win or lose this week, UCI is pretty much guaranteed to be playing in Rec Hall next week at Penn State.
It will either be as the winner of the MPSF's automatic bid or the at-large team. The only shot Hawaii has of using the tickets reserved on Monday is for UCI to win on Saturday, likely giving the Warriors the at-large.
"Our goal is to win and I know that goes along with Hawaii's wishes," Speraw said. "They had a bad match (Saturday) and I'm sure it's out of their system."
The Warriors returned to practice yesterday, preparing for what they hope will be their fourth appearance in the final four. The focus is to avoid the breakdowns in serving and passing that led to Saturday's loss.
"We played really good in Game 1," associate coach Tino Reyes said. "But then we got worse in each game and UCLA got better each game.
"We didn't win the nuts and bolts of it. And to win in this league, you have to play your best. They did and we didn't."
Notes: CSTV (OC 247, a cable subscription channel) will broadcast all three of the league championship matches Saturday live, beginning with the MIVA at 11 a.m. Hawaii time. ... UCI's dedicated web page for this week's MPSF matches is: http://www.mvball.uci.edu.