Andy Banachowski, the UCLA women's volleyball coach, said that he will use the National Invitational Volleyball Tournament, starting today at Pauley Pavilion, to evaluate his team.
He said that, knowing that it's exactly what every other coach in the 20-team tournament will be doing--gauging the sharpness of his defending national championship team.
"It's a good chance to see the other teams and adjust," Banachowski said. "You can set up in practice for one style or type of play, but it's another thing to see it in a game situation. You learn to adjust real fast.
"This tournament will be our last chance to look at the team. I'm still trying to get a cohesive group."
What he has is a strong team of seniors from last year's championship squad. Three of those players, Michelle Boyette, Liz Masakayan and Katie McGarrey, are suffering through lingering injuries, however, and that has prevented the Bruins from establishing a rhythm.
The Bruins, ranked No. 2 in this week's coaches' poll, are still 10-2 despite the injuries. Losses were inflicted by top-ranked Stanford and sixth-ranked Hawaii.
"We've had some freshmen come in and play well for us," Banachowski said. "Maybe the injuries have been a blessing. It's encouraging for the future."
Freshmen who have had significant playing time are Ann Marie Boyer, a setter, and Jenny Crocker, a power hitter. Both are 6-footers who fit into UCLA's aggressive style.
"I think this is a team with a lot of hitting strength," Banachowski said. "We have a solid all-around game. We are trying to make ourselves into a strong blocking team. We've always been known as a strong serving team."
The three-day tournament features 11 of the top 20 women's collegiate volleyball teams. Ranking teams entered, besides UCLA, are University of the Pacific, No. 3; Hawaii, No. 6; Cal Poly SLO, No. 7; USC, No. 8, and San Diego State, No. 9.
Today's session will begin at 5 p.m. There will be two sessions Friday, the day session starting at 10 a.m. and the evening session at 6:30. Semifinals will begin Saturday morning at 9, with the third-place match at 6 p.m. and the championship match at 8 p.m.
Most matches will be played in Pauley Pavilion. Some losers' bracket matches, beginning Friday, will be played in the John Wooden Center.