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UNIVERSITY BEAT / WENDY WITHERSPOON : Milling a Multi-Faceted Player for UCLA

November 16, 1994|WENDY WITHERSPOON

Kara Milling's biographical sketch in the UCLA women's volleyball media guide begins, "Physical player . . ."

It's true that Milling, a sturdy 6-foot-1 freshman, hits with uncommon power, but that isn't the half of it.

"She has good size and good strength and she's a strong hitter and a strong blocker," Coach Andy Banachowski said, adding that other parts of Milling's game are equally as important as her ability to send the ball thundering down on the other side of the net. "She can (control the ball) and she can set. That's why she fits in well for us."

Milling has started every game at right outside hitter for the No. 3-ranked Bruins, 26-3 overall and 15-2 in the Pacific 10 Conference. She averages 2.46 kills a game.

Milling's combination of skills enables Banachowski to use her opposite the setter and to move Alyson Randick to middle blocker to compensate for the loss of Irene Renteria, who completed her eligibility last season.

Milling credits her older brothers, Chad and Kyle, for developing competitive spirit. All three played basketball and volleyball at San Diego Poway High. Milling was a three-time San Diego Section most valuable player in volleyball and led Poway to four San Diego Section volleyball titles and two basketball titles. When she wasn't playing, she was watching her brothers play.

"I went to every game of theirs," she said. "My parents dragged me along, so I learned so much from just watching. Around the house, they taught me to be competitive. They were just big and tough and that's a big reason why I'm like that."

The Milling kids all became NCAA Division I athletes. Chad played volleyball at UC Irvine and Kyle plays basketball at UC Santa Barbara.

Milling is the third in a line of Bruins who have made an impact as freshmen. Annett Buckner was selected Volleyball Monthly's freshman of the year in 1991 and Kim Krull got the award last season.

Were it not for Stanford freshman sensation Kristin Folkl, Milling would have a good shot at earning the honor this year. But Folkl, a two-sport star who is being billed as the second-coming of Natalie Williams, all but has the award wrapped up after leading second-ranked Stanford (23-1, 15-1) with 4.5 kills a game, a .355 hitting percentage and 25 solo blocks.

Milling served notice, however, that she would not reside in Folkl's shadow when they met across the net on Nov. 4 in Pauley Pavilion. Milling had a match-high 23 kills, hitting .367, as UCLA upset the Cardinal, 10-15, 15-4, 15-3, 12-15, 15-11.

"Stanford wasn't keying on her as a potential offensive threat and so we went to her," Banachowski said.

But if Milling rose to the challenge against Stanford, she showed her inexperience the next night, when she was relatively ineffective in UCLA's 15-9, 15-1, 15-6 victory over Cal.

"I just wasn't as mentally prepared as I was for Stanford," Milling said about the lapse. "All my emotion and everything, I put all that out for Stanford. . . . I guess I just didn't have much left."

Luckily, for UCLA, Milling has plenty of time to learn how to pace herself.

*

For the last three seasons, Meika Wagner has put up a formidable block at the net for the USC women's volleyball team. She was an All-Pac 10 selection in 1992 and 1993.

But after she had lost 20 pounds because of a severe stomach problem last summer, Wagner realized she would have to change her game plan.

"When she began training lighter, she liked it because it made her a step quicker," said Coach Lisa Love. "Although it was a bad thing with her illness, she has made it into a positive."

Wagner, 6-0 and weighing a much trimmer 155, leads USC with 4.1 kills a game.

No. 13 USC, 18-6 overall and 12-5 in the conference, plays host to UCLA in the final Pac-10 match for both teams tonight at 7 in the North Gym. USC finishes its season with two nonconference matches in the Lyon Center: Friday at 7 p.m. against Big West champion and No. 8-ranked Long Beach State, 22-4 overall and 16-2 in Big West play, and Nov. 25 at 7 p.m. against 12th-ranked Notre Dame (25-2).

Notes

November marks the 25th anniversary of the first NCAA water polo tournament. UCLA won the first title in 1969 under Bob Horn, who coached from 1963-90 and led the Bruins to NCAA titles in 1971 and 1972 as well as four second-place and seven third-place finishes. Horn attributes his success to former UCLA Athletic Director J.D. Morgan. "He just gave us the tools that I didn't ever dream I would have the opportunity to use," said Horn, who also doubled as the UCLA swim coach from 1963-74. The No. 6-ranked Bruin water polo team (16-11), coached by Guy Baker, will play host to No. 2-ranked USC (16-6), Saturday, at 10 a.m. at the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center, before the schools meet in football.

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