Saturday, August 24

Bruins, Gauchos match up in same boat


Deciding factors for both teams: injuries, freshman lineup

By Grace Wen

Daily Bruin Senior Staff

Quick, name one thing the UCLA and UC Santa Barbara women’s
volleyball teams have in common …

Both UC schools? Yes, but that’s not the answer.

Both have coaches who have amassed over 500 victories and been
named Coach of the Year? Yeah, but it’s something else.

Give up?

Actually there are two more things the teams have in common: A
mess of injuries and a whole lot of freshmen in their lineups.

With three starters gone, UCSB will be forced to play at least
three freshmen. Coupled with the fact that the rest of the lineup
consists of sophomores, one might assume that the Gauchos are on
the brink of disaster.

However, when the No. 13 Bruins (10-3) take on No.16 UCSB (10-3)
at Pauley Pavilion tonight, the traditionally UCLA-dominated
matchup (UCLA leads the series 57-6 and has won the last nine
contests) is full of question marks.

"They have some new personnel we’re not that familiar with,"
UCLA head coach Andy Banachowski said. "But they’ve got the same
problems looking at us, so there will probably be a little bit of
getting used to each other at the start of the match."

UCSB head coach Kathy Gregory also sees both sides of the
coin.

"We look at the UCLA match as a chance to play a top program,"
UCSB head coach Kathy Gregory said. "We like to play the Pac-10
teams. But it just comes in a little bit of bad times."

It could indeed be bad times for the Gauchos who are without the
services of sophomore middle blocker Katie Crawford and freshman
outside hitter Roberta Gehlke. In addition, star outside hitter
Jennifer Stroffe, is out for the year with a torn anterior cruciate
ligament.

Of course, UCLA is facing some problems of their own. Outside
hitters have been dropping like flies for the Bruins, who have lost
junior Kara Milling (foot injury), sophomore Chaska Potter (skin
infection), and freshman Melissa Wendt (knee injury).

The hitting power of Milling and the passing skills of Potter
are what the Bruins will miss most. While Jennifer Wittenburg
stepped in to partially fill the void, the freshman has never
carried a big passing load. In fact, during last Saturday’s match
against USC, back row specialist Jennifer Coopman subbed in for
Wittenburg in the backrow.

Nonetheless, Wittenburg will start alongside Tamika Johnson and
middle blocker Elisabeth Bachman, both first-year players.

"I think Bachman and Johnson have been playing real well,"
Banachowski said. "Wittenburg did well in her first start. That’s
really on the bright side for us that we’re getting good play from
these young players."

Bachman currently leads the team in hitting percentage (.405)
while Johnson averages 2.48 kills per game. The height alone of the
Bruin freshmen could intimidate opponents.

"They have very big size," Gregory said. "There’s no weak
blockers so if we play a 5-1 and we’re in the two hitter rotation
then it’s easy for them to stop us if we’re not passing the ball
very well. The block can be very intimidating.

"Hopefully we don’t beat ourselves. Our competitive spirit as a
defensive team is what we want it to be."

Banachowski is fully aware of the strength of the Gaucho
defense. "There’s always a huge rivalry with another UC school," he
said. "Santa Barbara always plays an aggressive and outstanding
defensive game, so I think we’re going to see some long rallies, a
real tough match."

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