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UNIVERSITY BEAT / SCOTT MOE

Special Teams at Long Beach, USC

April 28, 1999|SCOTT MOE

For the Long Beach State volleyball and USC water polo programs, one national championship isn't enough this school year. Both are less than two weeks from winning a second crown in those sports.

In December, the 49er women's volleyball team defeated Penn State in the NCAA title match to go 36-0 and win its third national championship.

That same month, the Trojan men's water polo team won its first national championship, defeating Stanford in overtime.

Now, the Long Beach men's volleyball and USC women's water polo teams, ranked No. 2 and No. 1, respectively, are close to following their counterparts' success.

For Long Beach State (21-2), the accomplishments of the women have not put any pressure on the men, according to Coach Ray Ratelle. But they are accomplishments the male 49ers have been made well aware of all season.

"It hasn't been lost on us," said Ratelle, whose team spent two weeks in March atop the national rankings. "It doesn't miss us, the fact that the women have three and we have only one. It's in the back of our minds."

In the way of No. 2: the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament semifinals and finals at Provo this weekend and the NCAA Final Four at UCLA on May 6 and 8. Against the three other teams left in the MPSF tournament--Brigham Young, USC and Hawaii--Long Beach was 6-0 this season.

And like the women, the men went undefeated at the Pyramid, 12-0. And like the women, the men received a performance worthy of national recognition this year.

Misty May's excellence was over time; she was named player of the year twice. David McKienzie's excellence came out in the BYU match. Against the Cougars, McKienzie set an NCAA Division I record with 58 kills.

The USC water polo connection is a much more direct one, with one man being at the helm of both the men and women's programs.

Jovan Vavic, who, along with Co-Coach John Williams was named co-national coach of the year in men's water polo, is already MPSF coach of the year on the women's side.

His team, after two victories by a combined 13 goals at the Southern California Western Regional last weekend at UC San Diego, has asserted itself as one of the two best in the nation heading into the NCAA tournament at Davis on May 7-9. In a tie atop the rankings with California, the Trojans (26-2) have yet to lose to anyone but the Golden Bears.

"Talent, speed and determination is similar between both," said Vavic, whose team, if it wins the national title, will join the men in winning the first in program history. "Both teams had up and down points in the season.

"After our first loss to Berkeley, we won 18 in a row [before losing to the Bears in the MPSF tournament April 11]. Hopefully we'll do the same again."

The Trojans have the MPSF co-player of the year in senior goalie Bernice Orwig. Orwig follows Marco Pintaric, who was national player of the year in men's water polo.

Also at the regional, UCLA and UC Santa Barbara earned automatic berths into nationals with second and fourth place finishes.

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Pepperdine's George Roumain was named the MPSF men's volleyball player of the year for the second year in a row after leading the nation in kills a game with 8.55. USC's Brook Billings was named the conference freshman of the year and UC Irvine Coach Charlie Brande was named the MPSF coach of the year.

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Pepperdine won the West Coast Conference men's and women's tennis titles this weekend, defeating UC San Diego in the championship of both matches. Loyola Marymount finished fifth in men's and third in the women's.

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In the Pacific 10 women's golf championships last weekend, UCLA finished fourth in the three-day event at Stanford; USC was fifth. Stanford won, 12 strokes better than second-place Arizona.

USC's Jennifer Rosales, the reigning national champion, and UCLA's Giulia Sergas were part of a three-way tie for third at 218, seven behind winner Grace Park of Arizona State.

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The top-ranked UCLA softball team improved to 49-2 and 16-2 in the Pac-10 with doubleheader sweeps of California and Stanford. All-time Bruin home run leader Stacey Nuveman has an NCAA-best 25 this year and 45 in her career, less than two full seasons old.

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