LONG BEACH — Third-ranked Cal State Long Beach hosts defending national champion UCLA Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. in a nonconference rematch of the 1991 NCAA women's volleyball championship.
The match might also provide a preview of next month's NCAA final in Albuquerque.
Long Beach (27-1) has won 27 straight matches, the second-best winning streak in school history. (Long Beach 54 straight from 1972 to 1973). The 49ers' only loss this season was in their opener against second-ranked Stanford.
Top-ranked UCLA (28-0) rallied from a 2-0 deficit to defeat the 49ers, 3-2, at Pauley Pavilion in last December to win a sixth NCCA volleyball title. The Bruins have won 38 consecutive matches over the last two seasons.
"If we can go on to win the national championship, there will be no question that this is the best team that UCLA has ever had," said Bruin Coach Andy Banachowski, who recorded his 700th career victory earlier this year.
Long Beach Coach Brian Gimmillaro, who got his 200th collegiate victory earlier this season, led the 49ers to their first national title in 1989.
"This match is important for both teams because it will help us prepare for the playoffs," he said. "If both teams play well, it could mean that we will end up meeting each other three weeks from now in the final four."
The teams begin playoff action Dec. 4.
UCLA is led by outside hitters Natalie Williams (.412), Elaine Young (.377) and setter Julie Bremner, who averages 13.9 assists a game.
Long Beach has been led by setter Sabrina Hernandez, who averages 13 assists a game, and middle blocker Danielle Scott, who leads the nation with a .459 hitting percentage. "Statistically, UCLA is the best team," Scott said. "But we definitely want to try to prove statistics are wrong. Our goal is to win the NCAA championship, and it will be just as sweet to beat UCLA."