Oct. 13, 2011
By Amy Hughes
The UCLA women's volleyball team returns to Westwood this weekend for matches against Oregon State and Oregon at the Wooden Center. The last time the team played at home, the Bruins played host to and defeated the top two squads in the AVCA Top-25 poll, then-No. 1 California, and then-No. 2 Stanford.
The crowds were so large at the team's temporary home court in the Wooden Center that some fans had to wait until after the start of the match to gain entry to the venue. Due to the Pauley Pavilion renovations, women's volleyball is one of many UCLA teams that are displaced from their regular venue for the 2011-12 season.
"We really want to get students in the door," Event Manager Lori Lamar said of those first two Pac-12 matches. "We had a large number of invited groups (such as high school and middle school teams) whose tickets weren't released until 15 minutes after the match had started. As soon as those tickets were released, we let students in to fill up those seats."
"We had a few students who sat patiently in line and waited to be let in," continued Lamar. "They were watching the match on their cell phones through the video stream until they could get in the door. I'm happy to say that every student who sat and patiently waited, we were able to get them in the door. A lot of people wound up sitting hip-to-hip to make sure we could get everybody in."
"I really like [playing in the Wooden Center], personally. You feel like it's your own little court and you own it," said junior outside hitter Bojana Todorovic of that opening weekend in the Wooden Center. "Pauley is so massive that it's a lot easier for the crowd to get distracted. In Wooden, if you're cheering loud or talking loud or anything, everyone can hear you, so everyone is involved, which is great."
Second-year head coach Michael Sealy was an undergraduate student-athlete on the men's volleyball team the last time the Bruin women called the Wooden Center home.
"I remember those matches with the stands full and people sitting on the ground and having it completely packed," said Sealy. "I'm sure the fire codes are a little more strict now, but I remember the environment from when I was an undergrad also. That's where the team played, and that's where they won their titles."
UCLA is currently the nation's sixth-ranked team and plays host to Oregon State and No. 16 Oregon this weekend at the Wooden Center. This is Breast Cancer Awareness Weekend, and the Bruins will wear pink jerseys for both matches. Those same jerseys will then be auctioned off next week at UCLABruins.com.
Due to the overwhelming response last time they were at home, several adjustments have been made in order to accommodate a maximum number of fans for UCLA's nine remaining regular season matches at the Wooden Center.
"Come early," said Lamar. "The house opens at 6 o'clock, and I wouldn't arrive any later than that."
All seats are general admission and first-come, first-served.
Tickets for invited groups will be released 15 minutes prior to all remaining home matches. The line for student admissions (free with a valid Bruin Card) will queue at the stairs in front of the Collins Court event entrance doors and along the planter on Bruin Walk. Students will be issued tickets for the event beginning at 6:00 pm for the 7:00 pm first serve.
"That will make it a little easier for us to know exactly how many people are in the building, and it will allow us to get people into the venue faster," said Lamar.
Fans who will require a ticket for entry to the matches should also arrive early. There will be a Central Ticket Office location at the main entrance, next to the gate. The ticket office will also open one hour before first serve, at 6 p.m.
Both the team and staff were excited by the large crowds for the Bruins' first home weekend and hope that the excitement on campus regarding women's volleyball will continue.
"Obviously it's not the same without them," said Todorovic of the big crowds. "It's different playing in a gym that doesn't give off any energy. We experienced that in Colorado. There weren't many people there, and you have to work twice as hard to get yourself going. It really wouldn't be the same without [the large student crowd]. The earlier you show up, the better because you're going to get the best seats and it's always an exciting game. The crowd has a great time, we have a great time."
"You definitely can use the energy for sure," said Sealy. "As a team, we try not to ride the rollercoaster, peaks and valleys, emotional ups and downs. When it's going great, we love it. When things aren't going great, we try not to listen to a quiet gym and let that affect us either."
"I know a lot of students got turned away the first night because the student section filled up," continued Sealy. "On the next night there was such a buzz that the student section was full almost an hour before the match started which definitely was a great environment."
"The atmosphere with all of those students was so nice," said Lamar. "I really think that it helps the team when there are so many students there rooting for them. Students, don't be discouraged. Come on out. Bring your phones so you can watch it until you can get in the door if you're late, but we definitely want you there."