Despite a five-game loss to Cal State Northridge in the quarterfinals of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation men's volleyball tournament, UCLA was selected to play in the NCAA championships.
The Bruins, who received the at-large berth, will participate in the tournament for a record 24th time. The matchups for Thursday's national semifinals at Pauley Pavilion will pit UCLA against Penn State, and Pepperdine against Ohio State.
The selection of UCLA sparked controversy. The Bruins were chosen over Long Beach State, which advanced to the MPSF tournament final Saturday night before losing to top-ranked Pepperdine. UCLA had a better overall record at 25-5 and was the league's second-place team during the regular season. Long Beach (22-10) finished fifth in the league but won 13 of its last 16 matches.
"We played the toughest schedule in the nation," UCLA Coach Al Scates said. "We beat Penn State, three games to none, we beat them two of three head to head. The only thing we were vulnerable in is the availability of athletes."
Long Beach State Coach Alan Knipe argued that the availability issue and the Bruins' defeat in their only MPSF tournament match were reasons the 49ers should have been selected.
UCLA lost its starting setter, Dennis Gonzalez, to a broken left finger in practice the night before its loss to Northridge. One of the criteria in at-large selection is a team's ability to field its best complement of players.
"I don't think it was a well-thought-out decision," Knipe said. "What volleyball fans want to see is the best possible team play in the tournament. The tough part for the group to handle is that we know how we played down the stretch."
The UCLA women's water polo team kept alive its quest for an undefeated season by defeating Stanford, 9-5, to win the MPSF title at Berkeley.
Molly Cahill scored her team-leading three goals in the first half as the Bruins bolted to a 6-2 lead after one quarter. UCLA (30-0) has won its three MPSF tournament matches by a margin of 19 goals.
UCLA clinched a bid in the eight-team NCAA championships, which begin May 13 at Ann Arbor, Mich. Loyola Marymount (28-6) also got a bid by beating host UC Davis, 8-4, to win the Western Water Polo Assn. title.
Two nights after being shut out by USC, No. 9-ranked Arizona scored 13 runs at Tucson in the third inning of an 18-4 win over the Trojans (27-15, 9-6) that kept the Wildcats (28-15, 12-3) in first in Pacific 10 Conference baseball. ... Evan Longoria had three hits and scored three runs as No. 12 Long Beach State (32-14) pounded 17 hits in a 9-1 nonconference win over visiting UC Davis (21-21). ... Justin Turner and Blake Davis combined for seven runs batted in as No. 2 Cal State Fullerton (33-11, 11-1) beat visiting UC Santa Barbara, 16-2.