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WOMEN'S VOLLEYBALL : USC Ends Futility at UCLA

October 07, 1995|LONNIE WHITE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

After losing 15 consecutive matches to UCLA, the USC women's volleyball team ended its seven-year winless streak with a thrilling five-set victory over the Bruins Friday night at Pauley Pavilion.

The Trojans, who had not defeated UCLA since 1987, beat the Bruins at their own game of blocking and digging, 12-15, 15-12, 15-10, 11-15, 15-6, before 2,085.

No. 17 USC, 7-4 overall and 4-3 in the Pacific-10 Conference, avenged last season's dramatic loss at UCLA, in which the Trojans blew a 2-0 lead in games and were serving match point in Game 3.

"This is just fabulous," said USC senior Kelly Kuebler, who had four of her 14 kills in the fifth game. "To this day, last year's lost was the worst day of my life. Coming in here and beating them in the same gym is really special."

No. 6 UCLA (8-4, 4-3), which lost to Stanford in last season's NCAA championship match, was led by Jenny Johnson's 17 kills and 12 digs, but the Bruins fell short after rallying to force a fifth game.

"This is such a big weight lifted off our shoulders," USC Coach Lisa Love said. "We cleared such a mental hurdle to beat them. We had to play harder and a little better than we did last year."

UCLA started off fast, taking a 4-0 lead behind the serving of Johnson, the daughter of Olympic decathlon great Rafer Johnson. Kara Milling, who finished with seven kills in the first game, helped the Bruins stretch their lead to 7-3 before USC rallied.

Jennifer Kessy, a 6-foot freshman, had five kills as the Trojans took an 11-7 lead, thanks to an 8-0 run. That's when UCLA's standout junior, Kim Krull, took serve and the Bruins responded with five of their seven consecutive points to take a 14-11 lead. Two points later, Milling's kill gave UCLA the first game, 15-12.

The Trojans made their move in the second game, taking an 8-2 lead before winning it, 15-12.

UCLA started sluggishly in Game 3 as the Trojans raced to 7-0 and 10-1 leads. Sophomore Tanisha Larkin came off the bench to give the Bruins a lift as they cut USC's lead to 12-9, before the Trojans pulled away and won, 15-10.

After UCLA forced a fifth game on the strength of 10 kills by Larkin in the fourth game, USC wore down the Bruins in the deciding rally game--where every point counts.

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