The UCLA women's volleyball team, after starting the 1986 season with eight matches on the road, has come home to meet the two Arizona schools in Pacific 10 Conference play tonight and Sunday at the Wooden Center--and maybe to find themselves, or rather, maybe to find someone .
The Bruins are 6-2, most recently losing to Hawaii Thursday to leave Honolulu with a two-match split, and are ranked among the top six teams in the nation in two polls. But, Coach Andy Banachowski is worried that the offense needs some refining, that it is too predictable.
What it really needs, he said, is someone to take control.
"Right now, we're kind of finding out who can hit what," he said. "But once we get going, we'll be deceptive with what we're doing.
"This is a young team, and we have kind of been struggling as far as who would be the next star and who would assert themselves in that role."
Playing at home after competing in the UC Davis and All-Cal tournaments, as well as at Washington, Washington State and Hawaii, might help that along. There will be no lack of competition, what with Arizona here tonight at 7:30 and Arizona State playing Sunday at 5 p.m.
"Everybody is anxious to play one at home, so the loyal following we do have will be able to see us," Banachowski said. "I think after the trip, they're going to be really anxious to show themselves off a little bit."
UCLA will still be predictable in one sense, and Banachowski doesn't mind one bit. The left side will provide the strong play. The Bruins have had an All-American hitter there every year since 1978, with Linda Robertson, Patty Orozco and Liz Masakayan. This year it has been Lori Zeno, and Jenny Crocker has emerged, too. She had 25 kills in Wednesday's win over Hawaii. In the middle, Lisa Ettesvold is a returning All-American.
Meanwhile at USC, Coach Chuck Erbe wouldn't mind if much of the season could be fast-forwarded. That way, the injury-plagued Trojans, who have been forced to start three freshmen and three sophomores after finishing third in the nation last year, might be able to compete. The way it looks now, Murphy's Law has been the only play used in the offense.
As a result, USC has an unfamiliar 0-5 record going into tonight's match with Arizona State at the North Campus Gym at 7:30.
One player injured a knee before the season began, another hurt a knee in the season opener against Pepperdine. A third dived for a ball in the same match, hit her throat on someone else's foot and spent the night in the hospital with a swollen windpipe, then came back and was sidelined with the flu. Yet another broke the skin on her right hand while hitting the ball and needed eight stitches.
Three starters in all--Yvonne Lewis, Jaime Hatchett and top recruit Kathy Rich--have been out for some time. Lewis had reconstructive surgery on her knee and will be out for the rest of the year.
"I can't get too upset about this," Erbe said. "No one is pushing the panic button because what's happening in the matches, what's happening outside of the matches are circumstances beyond our control. We're just trying to do the best we can."
Cal State Long Beach is starting two freshmen--setter Sheri Sanders and Tara Cross, and a junior college transfer, Lacy Williams--but the 49ers have fared much better. Going into tonight's match at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, they are 2-2, with a win over USC, and are ranked No. 15 in a coaches' poll and No. 17 in the more complicated NCAA system. Stacy Peoples, Connie Watson and Sophia Honore are the returning starters.
"I thought that we've played well," Coach Brian Gimmillaro said. "But the conference (PCAA) is so hard that it's going to be one of those situations where all teams in the conference will have be patient. No one is going to go through undefeated."
Pepperdine was ranked 16th by the NCAA and 17th by the coaches, but the Waves, playing without any seniors, are 4-2 and sure to move up after their 15-12, 16-14, 15-11 win at home Thursday over Texas, a team ranked in the top five.
"We're playing very, very well under the circumstances," Coach Nina Matthies said. "We're where I think we should be and are getting better each match. It's not so much the skills that we lack, it's mostly just getting the playing time."
The Waves, however, do have two three-year starters in left-side hitter Julie Evans and setter Lee Hoven, as well as transfer Pam Lawrence from Hawaii. Lawrence played on the Rainbow Wahines' national championship team two years ago.
Volleyball Notes The coaches' poll has San Jose State as the No. 1 team in the nation. San Diego State is atop the NCAA rankings. But Brian Gimmillaro of Cal State Long Beach says the University of the Pacific, the defending national champion, is the best team, especially with sophomore Elaina Oden back after a tour with the U.S. national team. "My opinion is that she is the best college player in the country," Gimmillaro said. "I thought she was last year. And the international competition will only make her more confident and make the team more confident about her ability." USC's Chuck Erbe rates weekend opponent Arizona State No. 1. "They have a real nice blend of experience with youth and I think they're very hungry," he said. . . . Prime Ticket cable television has announced a women's volleyball package, with Ann Meyers and Chris Marlowe announcing.