Feb. 4, 2008
Fourth-ranked UCLA hosts conference rivals USC and Pepperdine this week, and looks to extend its three-match winning streak as the MPSF race heats up. UCLA entertains No. 11 USC on Wed., Feb. 6 before hosting No. 5 Pepperdine on Sat., Feb. 9. Both matches begin at 7 p.m. in Pauley Pavilion.
Both matches also will be broadcast live on www.uclabruins.com with Darren Preston calling the action.
The USC match will be aired live on FSN/Prime Ticket with Paul Sunderland, Karch Kiraly and Steve Obradovich at the mike. Prior to the USC match, UCLA will retire the jersey of Jeff Nygaard, who was inducted into the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame in November. A former four-time All-American, Nygaard earned Player of the Year honors in 1994 and '95.
Saturday's match against Pepperdine is the 31st Annual Kilgour Cup, a benefit originally staged in honor of UCLA's late Hall of Famer, Kirk Kilgour.
Last week the Bruins earned two quality victories against Cal Baptist (3-2), the No.1 team in the NAIA, and defending NCAA champion UC Irvine (3-1).
Junior middle blockers Jamie Diefenbach and D.J. Stromath played exceptionally well. Diefenbach recorded 27 kills (.571), four aces and 10 total blocks for 36.5 points. Stromath added 16 kills (.333), two aces and 11 total blocks for 25 points.
"With our improved passing, we have the ability to set anybody," said Head Coach Al Scates. "We're going to go to our middles until somebody stops us, and then we'll use other options."
Two weeks ago, the Bruins split matches on the road against USC (2-3, Jan. 23) and Pepperdine (3-2, Jan. 25). UCLA's current three-match streak began at Pepperdine, where the Bruins had not won since 2004.
"[Beating Pepperdine] was a big match for us because we had just lost to USC," Scates continued. "We're playing for the home court advantage in the playoffs, and every match counts."
Since beating the Bruins, the Trojans (5-6, 4-4) have lost two of three league matches, including a four-game setback at home against UC Irvine. USC also lost in three on the road against first-place Long Beach State. The Trojans defeated UC San Diego in three on Feb. 2.
USC has won two of the last three matches against UCLA, but the Bruins have won 26 of the last 29. In the overall series, UCLA leads 85-32 and 10-3 during the Lexus Gauntlet series. USC leads the 2007-08 Lexus Gauntlet competition, 37.5-10.
Pepperdine (5-3, 5-3), has lost three of its last four, also stopping its skid with a sweep on the road against UCSD Feb. 1. In a week (Jan. 23-30), the Waves lost at home to UC Irvine and UCLA and on the road against Long Beach State.