Fifth-Seeded Bruins Set to Battle UC Irvine in MPSF Quarterfinals
April 19, 2012
This Week -- The fifth-seeded UCLA Bruins (22-7, 16-6 MPSF) will travel down the freeway to Irvine to take on the fourth-seeded UC Irvine Anteaters (21-5, 17-5 MPSF) on Saturday, Apr. 21 in the first round of the MPSF Tournament. The match is set for a 7 pm start time.
Live Coverage -- Fans can follow the match via a live stats link and can listen to the match via a live audio broadcast at uclabruins.com. Darren Preston and Connor Reeves will have the call. The links are available at uclabruins.com on the events calendar on the front page.
In The Rankings -- UCLA fell No. 5 in the AVCA poll this week after defeating Pacific, but falling to Stanford in their final regular season matches. UC Irvine is ranked No. 2 in the AVCA poll and is the number four seed in the MPSF Tournament. The Bruins are the number five seed.
Bruins Making 49th Playoff Appearance -- Saturday's playoff appearance will mark UCLA's 49th in the last 50 years under head coach Al Scates. In the MPSF playoffs since 1995, the Bruins boast a 21-11 record and won their last league title in 2006 as the No. 7 seed, tied for the lowest seeded team ever to win the MPSF title. That season, they won their final 14 matches and won their 19th NCAA title. Overall, the Bruins have won 24 conference titles, including one shared crown in 1989.
Scouting The Anteaters -- UC Irvine finished the regular season with a record of 21-5 overall and 17-5 in conference play. The Anteaters wrapped up their regular season last weekend with a 3-0 sweep of UC San Diego on the road. Irvine is led by senior opposite Carson Clark, who leads the Anteaters with 408.0 points, 336 kills and 47 service aces. Clark is also second to USC's Tony Ciarelli in the MPSF with 0.56 service aces per set and 0.57 aces per set in conference matches only. Sophomore outside hitter Jeremy Dejno and junior outside hitter Kevin Tillie are also key members of the Anteaters, as Dejno has 324.5 points on 268 kills, 35 aces and 36 blocks while Tillie has 282 points on 243 kills, 17 aces and 40 blocks. UC Irvine also leads the MPSF conference in hitting percentage (.357) and service aces per set (1.69), and is second to Stanford in kills per set at 13.52. Finally, the Anteaters are coached by former UCLA player and assistant coach John Speraw, who helped lead the Bruins to two NCAA championships in 1993 and 1995 as a player and was an assistant coach on the 1998 and 2000 NCAA championship teams. Speraw is 175-94 in his 10 years at the helm of UC Irvine with national championships in 2007 and 2009.
The Series With UC Irvine -- UCLA has an all-time record of 55-15 against UC Irvine, but has dropped two of their three meetings with the Anteaters this season. The two sides first met in the finals of the UCSB/asics Invitational in Santa Barbara, Calif. where Irvine prevailed 3-1. Jeremy Casebeer led UCLA with 13 kills in that match while Weston Dunlap and Thomas Amberg recorded 11 and 10 kills respectively. Carson Clark led the Anteaters with 17 kills. The teams met again on March 10 at the John Wooden Center as the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams in the country and played a fantastic five set match in front of 1,500 fans that went back and forth all night. Unfortunately for the Bruins, Irvine again came out on top 3-2. Amberg had a team-high 17.5 points with 11 kills and 11 block assists while Casebeer was right behind him with 16 points and 12 kills. Gonzalo Quiroga was the only other Bruin with double-figure points as he had 12 points on 11 kills and two block assists. Kevin Tillie led Irvine with 26.5 points on 21 kills, four aces and two blocks. UCLA finally got their revenge in Irvine back on March 31, winning 3-0 on senior night at Crawford Hall on Irvine campus. Gonzalo Quiroga had 13 kills while Amberg added 10 as the Bruins knocked off the top-ranked Anteaters in three sets. Kyle Caldwell also had a big night for the Bruins, setting the team to a .378 hitting percentage to go along with his five kills and six digs. The Bruins and Anteaters have only met one time in the postseason, back in 2009 when No. 1 seeded Irvine defeated the eighth-seeded Bruins 3-1 at the Bren Center.
Recapping the Weekend -- The Bruins finished up their regular season last weekend with a trip to the Bay Area to face Pacific and Stanford. UCLA split those two matches, first beating Pacific on Friday night by the score of 3-1 before falling to Stanford 3-0 on Saturday night. Against the Tigers, the Bruins won in four sets behind 14 kills and 17 points from Thomas Amberg. Amberg also hit an outstanding .700 on 20 attempts in the match. Gonzalo Quiroga and Weston Dunlap also had double-digit point performances, recording 12.5 and 12 points respectively. Quiroga was stellar on defense as well with a team-high 10 digs on the night. On Saturday against the Cardinal, UCLA fell in three sets to Stanford on senior night at Maples Pavilion. Amberg, Quiroga and Dunlap each led the Bruins with 9.5 points while Kyle Caldwell had seven kills on a .700 hitting percentage to go with his 27 set assists. Brian Cook led Stanford with 12 kills and 17 points in the match.
Five Bruins Named to the All-MPSF Team -- UCLA landed five players on the 2012 All-MPSF teams, as announced by the conference on Thursday. Earning first-team All-MPSF honors were senior middle blockers Thomas Amberg and Weston Dunlap and senior setter Kyle Caldwell. Sophomore Gonzalo Quiroga made the second team while sophomore libero Evan Mottram picked up an honorable mention nod.
The Career of Al Scates -- UCLA head coach Al Scates is in the midst of his 50th and final season as head coach, as he will retire following the 2012 campaign. Over the last 50 years, Scates has compiled a nation-best 1,239 victories in his time at UCLA and leaves behind an unmatched legacy of success, longevity and influence in collegiate men's volleyball. To date, Coach Scates has captured 19 NCAA championships, 21 overall national championships and 24 conference titles. In addition, Scates has coached 52 different first-team NCAA All-Americans, 44 U.S. National Team members, 27 Olympians, 26 USVBA All-Americans and seven collegiate Players of the Year over his 49 year tenure. "Al Scates stands alone in his contributions to the sport of men's volleyball," said Athletic Director Dan Guerrero. "His dedication, passion, and stewardship of the game ushered UCLA into an era of widespread achievement in Olympic sports and broadened athletic opportunities for collegiate men across the country. While bittersweet, Coach Scates' final year at the helm of Bruin volleyball will be a well-deserved season-long celebration for an individual whose lifetime achievements are truly remarkable. Al is among the greatest coaches in the history of college sports and a legend in the annals of UCLA Athletics. He is a Bruin in every sense of the word and we are so thankful for his 50 years of service to the University."
Approaching the Record Books -- Senior quick hitter Thomas Amberg has been working his way up the UCLA record books this season and is closing in on a couple of more records as the Bruins enter the final stages of their season. Earlier this year, Amberg broke Paul Johnson's school record for most career block assists and total blocks in the rally scoring era (2001-present) and needs just three more solo blocks to pass Johnson for most career solo blocks in the rally scoring era. Amberg also has 140 block assists and 141 total blocks this season, and needs just one more block assist and 10 more total blocks to pass Johnson for most block assists and total blocks in a single season in the rally scoring era.
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