Aug. 19, 2002
LOS ANGELES - The 2002 UCLA women's volleyball team has completed a week of pre-season training off campus in Mammoth, CA, and has returned to Westwood to complete its pre-season practice. UCLA opens its 2002 women's volleyball schedule on Friday, August 30, in Honolulu, HI, with a match against Colorado.
A new-look Bruin team will take to the volleyball court this September, with the departure of three four-year starters following the 2001 season.
The Bruins return half of last year's ?playing eight' including senior outside hitter Lauren Fendrick, senior middle blocker Angela Eckmier and sophomore middle Brynn Murphy, along with sophomore libero Chrissie Zartman.
The new faces on the floor for UCLA will start with the position that distributes the offense. Following the departure of four-year starter Erika Selsor, head coach Andy Banachowski starts the 2002 season with three setters on his roster, none with significant collegiate playing experience.
Sophomore Krystal McFarland played sparingly as a true freshman in 2000, before redshirting the 2001 season behind Selsor. McFarland has put in her time during two seasons on the practice court, and ran the Bruin offense through spring practice and at the 2002 U.S. Open Nationals, where the Bruins took second place.
"Krystal is chomping at the bit to play after redshirting last season," said Banachowski. "She had an outstanding tournament at open nationals in Dallas and is ready to step in and take a leadership role this year."
McFarland is joined by two freshmen, Haley Jorgensborg and Tammy Jackson. Jorgensborg enters the program with a very successful high school and club career, and Banachowski expects her to compete with McFarland for playing time, while Jackson gives the Bruins added depth at setter.
"Personnel-wise, we do not have an established setter coming into this season," said Banachowski. "Krystal has put in her time learning the system and took a huge step forward with her play at open nationals, while Haley comes in with a very successful club career to her credit and Tammy will add depth at the position."
UCLA enters the upcoming fall season with its entire 2001 middle blocker corps intact. Led by senior Angela Eckmier, this group includes the experience of junior Cira Wright, sophomore Brynn Murphy and freshman Nancy Barba.
"Angela will be our force in the middle," said Banachowski. Eckmier tore the ACL in her right knee during the preseason in 2000, and has regained her pre-injury form. After being medically cleared to remove her knee brace prior to last year's postseason, Eckmier turned in four outstanding matches, a run that was capped by her selection to the All-Tournament Team at the NCAA Regional.
Eckmier led the Bruins with 1.30 blocks per game, and was the only Bruin to record triple-figure block assists, finishing with 116 on the year.
Murphy was the second middle among UCLA's "playing eight" in 2001, and again will be in the mix during the upcoming season. As a freshman, Murphy was second on the team with 59 total blocks for a 0.71 average. She was also one of just three Bruins with double-figure solo blocks on the season.
Wright is possibly the squad's most athletic middle, and has improved in each of her previous two years in a Bruin uniform. "Cira had a strong showing for us during spring practice," said Banachowski, "and she showed that she can really be one of our best blockers."
Wright averaged 0.77 blocks per game last season, playing in 73 of a possible 103 games and recording 13 solo blocks and 43 block assists. She played primarily as a front-row replacement for setter Erika Selsor.
The group's only newcomer, Nancy Barba, is expected to compete for playing time in the middle. "Nancy will fit our profile of athletic middles," said Banachowski.
Last season's team leader in kills with 398, senior Lauren Fendrick will be one of UCLA's primary offensive weapons during the upcoming season. A three-year starter, Fendrick enters her senior season coming off of an extremely impressive spring practice.
"Lauren played extremely well at open nationals," said Banachowski. "She did it all for us at that tournament ? passing, serving, blocking, hitting. She had a great tournament."
Two sophomores, Heather Cullen and Brittany Ringel, return to the court this season after contributing as freshmen last season. Cullen averaged 1.47 kills per game for the season, and stepped in to the starting lineup for the second half of UCLA's regular season in 2001.
"Heather made great strides during the off-season," said Bnachowski. "She made the most progress of anyone on the left side during the spring and had a good fall on the right side. She came in as a middle, so she can truly be a utility player for us."
Ringel was a situational substitute last season, averaging just under a kill per game while posting six aces and six blocks.
"Brittany will continue to add power to our offense from the outside," said Banachowski.
A team captain for a second consecutive season, Lauren Hogan hopes to overcome shoulder problems that kept her out of the lineup through much of 2001 and put together a strong senior season. Shoulder problems that caused a redshirt season in 1999 re-surfaced last season and limited Hogan to just five games played, all in the early season, and all at a defensive specialist position.
"Even if Lauren can't step on the court, she will make a big contribution to this team as a team captain, a senior and a leader," said Banachowski.
Natalie Ray, who saw playing time as a defensive specialist last season, may also see action on the outside this season.
A new position in the women's collegiate game, the libero is a designated back-row player, intended to be used as a ball-control specialist. The libero (LEE-ba-ro) is allowed to replace any player in the back row without counting as a substitution. There is no limit to the number of libero replacements a team is allowed.
An outstanding defensive specialist for the Bruins a year ago, sophomore Chrissie Zartman will be UCLA's primary libero for the upcoming season. As a true freshman last year, Zartman averaged 2.62 digs per game while playing in only half of the team's rotations. She was second on the team in total digs with 270, while contributing 35 service aces, again the second-best total on the team.
"Chrissie will shine under these new rules," said Banachowski. "We certainly will miss her jump serving, but her ability to pass and play defense will make up for the points we'd get from her jump serve."
Junior Stacey Lee will also see some action at the position, as coaches are able to change their libero from game to game. Lee has been one of UCLA's "playing eight" as a defensive specialist during her first two years with the Bruins. Last season, Lee averaged 2.09 digs per game, and was one of four Bruins to top 200 digs on the season.
Another player who saw time as a defensive specialist last season and could appear as a libero in 2002 is sophomores Natalie Ray. Ray played in five games, recording two kills and eight digs.
"Natalie improved her passing last year and continues to be a reliable defensive player," said Banachowski.
The Bruins have four tournaments on the schedule for the 2002 season, opening with the Hawaiian Airlines Rainbow Wahine Classic in Honolulu. The Bruins are the defending champions at this tournament, and have played in the HAL Classic every year of its existence.
From Honolulu, the Bruins will then head to the midwest, playing at the Diet Coke Classic in Minneapolis where UCLA will face host Minnesota, Northern Iowa, and Rhode Island.
A non-conference match at San Francisco follows, as UCLA will make its way up the Pacific coast to play at the Nike Portland Invitational in its final weekend prior to Pac-10 play.
After an exhibition match at the John Wooden Center against Olymp Praha from the Czech Republic on Sept. 18, UCLA opens its Pac-10 schedule at the Arizona schools with a televised match on Fri., Sept. 20 vs. Arizona.
The traditional non-conference match against Pepperdine will be played on Nov. 12 this season at Pauley Pavilion. The Bruins conclude their regular season schedule at the Albuturkey Tournament in Albuquerque, NM, where they will face Rice, Butler and host New Mexico, before returning to Los Angeles for NCAA tournament selection on Dec. 1.
"We will have a lot of new faces on the floor, and the Pac-10 looks to be tough this year," said Banachowski. "Our play at open nationals proved to our athletes that we're capable of playing at a high level over an extended period of time. We'll be an aggressive serving team this year, and we will emphasize scoring points quickly."
With "Pure Effort" from everyone involved, the Bruins look forward to a successful 2002 season.