No place like Pauley: Athletes look forward to playing in renovated venue

Reopening of Pauley Pavilion begins a new chapter for UCLA, boosts morale


See multimedia coverage of the opening of the renovated Pauley Pavilion:

Now, after a significant renovation, the historic venue of Pauley Pavilion is finally open again, adding an extra level of excitement both for athletes who have missed their competitive home and those who were forced to start their Bruin careers elsewhere.

Megan Moenoa, a sophomore setter on the women’s volleyball team, has yet to compete in Pauley Pavilion, but is well aware of the significance of the building’s reopening.

“Being able to be a part of that opening ceremony, and then being part of the first group to play in there is history,” Moenoa said. “There’s no other word for it, it’s really cool.”

Not being able to compete in Pauley, however, has not held the women’s team back from success, as they won the NCAA title in 2011 and are 8-0 at home this season ““ “˜home’ being Collins Court in the John Wooden Center.

But players say finishing out their season in Pauley Pavilion, where they will play the second round of Pac-12s, will be the icing on the cake.

“I think we’re ready to make our statement again, and I think it’s about that time of the year where things are starting to click and we’re starting to get back in the flow of things,” Moenoa said. “I think it’s perfect timing.”

For the men’s volleyball team, on the other hand, the “new” Pauley Pavilion ““ along with a new coach in John Speraw ““ offers them a new opportunity to overcome last year’s disappointing results.

In iconic volleyball coach Al Scates’ final season, the 19-time NCAA champions fell to eventual 2012 NCAA champion UC Irvine in the quarterfinals of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament.

“Team morale is great. … John Speraw, he’s a great coach,” said Kene Izuchukwu, a redshirt sophomore outside hitter. “We are looking forward to getting to the Final Four, which is going to e hosted here in Pauley.”

Bruins who have had the opportunity to compete both in and out of Pauley say both situations offer their own benefits.

Samantha Peszek, a junior gymnast, said she was pleasantly surprised with the increased intensity of smaller venues.

Gymnastics also competed on Collins Court during the renovations.

“To be honest, I wasn’t too excited about it ““ one of my favorite things about gymnastics is competing in a big arena,” Peszek said. “It was totally different from what I expected, the crowd was electrifying.”

With the buzz surrounding new Pauley, the hope is that these teams can experience this same environment they had in Collins Court on the grand stage of Pauley Pavilion.

“My hope is that we can get the same atmosphere that we had in Collins Court and move it back to Pauley,” Peszek said.

“I think being in the arena is just going to help us because everyone is going to have that extra adrenaline, knowing that we’re competing in it for the first time and that we’re making history. Everyone kind of wants it a little bit more.”

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