Dec. 14, 2006
OMAHA, Neb. - UCLA's 2006 season came to a close on Thursday night in Omaha, Neb., as the Bruins fell in four games to top-seeded Nebraska with game scores of 23-30, 30-28, 30-23, 30-28. The Bruins (33-4) had four players with double-figure kills, led by Ali Daley with 16 and 18.5 points.
The Bruins scored the first three points of the match on a Huskers attack error and kills from Nana Meriwether and Kaitlin Sather. UCLA would hold the lead until Nebraska tied the game at 13-13 on a pair of Bruin errors. UCLA responded with kills from Rachell Johnson and Sather to force the media timeout with a 15-13 lead. The huskers closed the lead to two points with a Sarah Pavan kill to make it 19-17, but UCLA scored the n0065t two points on a Huskers service error and an Ali Daley kill to force NU into its firs timeout with a 21-17 Bruin lead.
The timeout did nothing to stop the Bruin run. UCLA ripped off the next three points on a Sather ace, a block assist from Daley and Meriwether and a kill from Sather to lead 24-17 and prompt NU head coach John Cook to call his final timeout of the opening game. After the Bruins extended the lead to 28-18, the Huskers put together a mini-run, scoring four straight before a Meriwether kill, her fifth of the match, gave the Bruins game point. After a Dani Mancuso kill gave NU its 23rd point, a Rachell Johnson put the game away for the Bruins, 30-23, momentarily quieting an NCAA record crowd of 17,013 at Qwest Center Omaha.
UCLA started the second game with a similar run, scoring five of the first six points. After a pair of Huskers attack errors and a Meriwether kill gave the Bruins a 5-1 advantage, NU called its opening timeout of the game in an effort to stop the Bruin momentum. A Mancuso kill out of the timeout served that function and game two would turn into a battle from there. Nebraska put up a block to tie the game at 11-11 and the teams would trade points from there to the 19-19 mark when a trio of Bruin led Andy Banachowski to spend his first time out trailing 21-18.
A block from Sather and Johnson broke the Huskers streak, and the Bruins would recover to battle back and tie the game at 22-22 on a Daley kill, when NU spent its second and final timeout. A Bruin service error broke the tie and gave the Huskers a one-point advantage, but after an NU attack error tied the score at 24-24, UCLA put together three straight points on a Colby Lyman service ace and an over pass put away by Nellie Spicer to take a 26-24 lead. Nebraska used a Sarah Pavan kill and a block to tie the game at 26, but UCLA responded in kind with kills from Spicer and Johnson to take a 28-26 lead. A pair of Bruin attack errors produced the 13th tie of the game and UCLA's final timeout before a ball handling error called on the Bruins gave Nebraska the 30-28 win and send the teams to the locker room tied at one game apiece at the break.
The teams picked up in game three where they left off in game two, trading blows and points with Nebraska scoring two straight to take a 15-13 advantage at the media timeout. Momentum did not shift with the media timeout as a ball handling error called on the Bruins, a Huskers block and a Pavan service ace gave NU an 18-13 lead at UCLA's first called timeout. After three more Nebraska points and a second Bruin timeout, the NU lead was 21-13.
UCLA broke the Huskers scoring streak with a block from Johnson and Carter to make the score 23-14 and closed the gap to six points at 24-18 on a Johnson kill. That was as close as the Bruins would be able to get, falling 30-23 in game three. UCLA hit just .156 to Nebraska's .312 in the game, although both teams remained under .185 for the match.
Nebraska took an early 3-0 lead in game four and built it to six points at 14-8, reaching the media timeout with a 15-9 advantage. A pair of three-point runs by UCLA would cut the Huskers lead to 16-13 and then 17-16, with the second run featuring a pair of block assists by Meriwether and Sather and leading to an NU timeout.
That briefly broke the Bruin run as the Huskers responded with a Kori Cooper kill, but UCLA came right back with a Sather kill, a Jade Machado service ace and a kill from Meriwether to take a 19-18 lead, its first in game four. After Nebraska took a 21-19 lead, UCLA put together a three-point run on kills from Daley and Spicer before a Husker attack error gave the Bruins a 22-21 lead, but Nebraska responded with a three-point lead of its own to go up 24-22 as UCLA called its final timeout.
The Bruins put together a big final rally, with a kill from Johnson and a pair from Daley cutting the NU lead to 28-27 at which time Cook called his final timeout. An in the net call on UCLA gave the Huskers match point, which they would convert on a Jordan Larson kill for the 30-28 final game win.
UCLA finished with four players in double-figure kills, led by Daley with 16, Sather with 15, Meriwether with 12 and Johnson with 10. Daley was also UCLA's points leader, adding a service ace and three block assists for 18.5 points in the match.
This season marked UCLA's first NCAA National Semifinals appearance and first 30-win season since the 1994. The Bruins had three All-Americans for the first time since 1992 with Meriwether and Spicer earning first-team honors and Carter being named to the third team. It was UCLA's first season with multiple first-team All-Americans since 1993.
Nana Meriwether finished the season with an average of 1.95 blocks per game, a mark that will be the NCAA's Division I statistical leader in that category. Her season-ending attack percentage of .448 is a new UCLA record and could remain the NCAA's Division I leader pending the conclusion of Stanford's season, as Foluke Akinradewo is Meriwether's closest competition, entering the NCAA Semifinals with a .439 attack percentage. No player in NCAA Division I history has led the nation in two different statistical categories in the same year.