Sunday, August 18

Nihipali hammers away at another


Monday, April 29, 1996

Junior hitter nails UCSB with 52 kills in MPSF final winBy Ruben
Gutierrez

Daily Bruin Staff

The hammer has never been hotter.

Saturday night, junior opposite hitter Paul Nihipali blasted UC
Santa Barbara with a UCLA-record 52 kills to key a 15-10, 8-15,
15-11, 14-16, 15-13 victory in the Mountain Pacific Sports
Federation title match, sending the Bruins back home for the NCAA
Championships at Pauley Pavilion beginning on Thursday.

Nihipali accomplished the record-breaking feat on a
scintillating .466 attack percentage, also a match-high. Nihipali’s
52 kills broke his previous school-record of 39, also set at the
University of Hawaii Special Events Arena.

"I don’t know if the plan was to go to Nihipali, but he got hot
quick," former Bruin quick hitter John Speraw, a member of UCLA’s
1995 NCAA Championship team said in a post-game interview with KIEV
radio."He had 20 kills halfway through the second game. He just
caught fire fast and Stein just kept feeding him."

UCSB (18-8) had beaten the Bruins (24-5) twice in regular season
play this year, but Saturday’s match seemed to be a different story
as UCLA took a commanding 2-1 lead in the match and enjoyed a 10-2
cushion in the fourth game.

Just as the Bruins could almost taste the champagne, disaster
struck as the Gauchos stormed back to score 10 straight points to
take a 12-10 advantage. UCLA tied the game at 12 on two Santa
Barbara hitting errors. UCLA senior swing hitter Brian Wells then
sent one long to give UCSB the lead.

Nihipali’s 47th kill of the evening, set up by a Wells dig and
an error by Gaucho attacker Donny Harris, who had 31 put-aways,
brought up match point for UCLA. The Bruins failed to convert and
never got another chance in that stanza as the Gauchos scored three
straight points to send the match into a rally point fifth
game.

After letting a decisive eight-point lead slip from them,
prospects looked bleak for UCLA in the rally-point game, in which
every rally results in a point. UCSB was generally regarded as the
better sideout team. Entering Saturday, UCLA was 0-3 in MPSF
Tournament rally-point games, further stacking the deck against the
Bruins.

UCLA seemed to buck the odds early, jumping out to a 2-0 lead
with specialist Trong Nguyen serving. The two squads battled back
and forth tying each other at eight before the Gauchos scored on a
kill by outside hitter Rob Treahy. Treahy and Morgan Chapman then
blocked a Nihipali attempt to take a two-point lead.

The Bruins came back from a timeout to score two straight to
knot it at 10. With the score tied at 11, Nihipali and quick hitter
Tom Stillwell combined for two straight roofs. Nihipali 51st and
52nd kills gave UCLA the 15-13 decision.

"Especially after our fourth game letdown, it reminded me of our
finals match with Penn State in ’94," Speraw said. "I though about
that, but I almost didn’t want to think about it. For these guys to
come back and turn it around like we didn’t then, it’s quite a
victory, quite a notch in their belts."

UCLA reached the tournament final by beating Cal State
Northridge (16-12) for the third time this season, 15-12, 10-15,
15-9, 15-9. The Gauchos upset top-ranked Hawaii 6-15, 15-8, 15-8,
14-16, 16-14 in front of a crowd of over 10,000 to qualify for the
final.

UCLA, Penn State and Lewis University have already qualified for
the Final Four and it is expected that Hawaii (26-2) will receive
the at-large berth to round out the field. UCLA has never lost a
match in the NCAA playoffs at Pauley Pavilion.

FRED HE/Daily Bruin

Paul Nihipali’s school-record 52 kills helped the Bruins squeak
by the Gauchos on Saturday.

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