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UNIVERSITY BEAT

Letdown Sets Up UCI Spark

October 04, 2003|Eric Stephens | Times Staff Writer

UC Irvine felt so good about its season that it gathered as a team in December to watch the NCAA women's volleyball postseason selection show -- only to learn it was not among the 64 teams selected.

The sting of that disappointment has helped spark the Anteaters to the best start in school history. Irvine is 14-3 overall, including a 5-0 mark good for first place in the Big West Conference.

"We feel very fortunate to be in the same half of the [standings] as Long Beach State, UC Santa Barbara and Pacific, who are traditional powers," Irvine Coach Charlie Brande said. "Our conference is very, very good. UC Riverside was picked last" in a preseason poll, "and they've beaten Long Beach and Cal Poly" San Luis Obispo.

Irvine was 19-11 last season, an achievement in that only two other Anteater squads had more victories. But Brande said late-game focus was lacking in a few close losses.

But now a core group of players -- Kelly Wing, Dana Kurzbard, Brenda Waterman, Ashlie Hain and Sami Cash -- that endured a 4-23 season two years ago has matured into a force that is challenging the league's traditional powers.

Irvine leads the Big West in hitting percentage and ranks second in kills, assists and blocks per game. Irvine's biggest victory came Saturday in an upset of 20th-ranked Pacific. The Anteaters' next big tests come Oct. 11 at Long Beach and Oct. 17 at home against defending league champion Santa Barbara.

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Long Beach volleyball setter Jillian Mazzarella was chosen national player of the week by the American Volleyball Coaches Assn. for her performances in wins over Pacific and Cal State Northridge. The junior transfer from Baylor averaged 48.5 assists, nine digs and eight kills with no hitting errors.... Cal State San Bernardino middle blocker Kim Morohunfola earned national honors in Division II after leading the Coyotes past UC Davis. Morohunfola had a season-high 25 kills and six blocks in the five-game victory, which vaulted San Bernardino over Davis into the top spot in the national poll.... Santa Barbara's men's soccer team is in the top 10 for the first time in the program's history.... Irvine's men's golf team defeated Long Beach and 11 other teams to win the Northwest Collegiate Classic in Corvallis, Ore. Vinnie Ponciano and Jay Choe, second and third overall, helped the Anteaters to a tournament-record, three-round score of 846.

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This Week

WOMEN'S VOLLEYBALL

* No. 1 USC at No. 13 Washington, tonight, 7 -- The Trojans (12-0, 3-0 in Pacific 10 Conference) have won 24 consecutive matches, 23 in a row on the road dating to the 2001 season. The Huskies (11-2, 2-2), coming off consecutive losses to Stanford and Cal, are coached by Jim McLaughlin, who won one NCAA title in seven seasons as the USC men's coach.

MEN'S SOCCER

* No. 2 UCLA at No. 13 Washington, Sunday, 2:30 p.m. -- Since losing to No. 1 Maryland on Sept. 5, the Bruins (6-1-0) have won four matches without allowing a goal. Washington (6-0-1), which has a victory over nationally ranked South Carolina, is led by sophomore Leo Totev, who has five goals and two assists.

FOOTBALL

* Occidental at Pomona-Pitzer, today, 1 p.m. -- In a rivalry that dates to 1895, the winner of this game will be the front-runner in the Southern California Interscholastic Athletic Conference. Last week, Occidental (3-0) defeated Whittier, 35-24, in its SCIAC opener; Pomona-Pitzer (3-1) lost to Rhodes College, 31-21.

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