It’s been a wild fall quarter for sports at UCLA – and a lot of them took a beating last weekend – but there’s still a lot to be thankful for ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.
TuAnh Dam, Sports editor
Turkey Day is right around the corner and there’s a lot that I’m thankful for – our copy editors for not killing me when I miss deadline, our Graphics section for putting up with my scouting reports and my three roommates, who occasionally remember I live with them even though I rarely get home before 2 a.m.
Sitting at the top of that list, and the bottom of most football rankings, this year, is UCLA football.
Sure, I hate football for a lot of reasons: the early morning wake-up calls for press conferences and the stressful and hectic Saturday nights planning out and organizing stories, for example.
But hey, there’s a reason I keep them around right?
One is because I have to.
On a serious note, football has been a big part of my fall and as much as I moan and groan, it really is something I’m thankful for.
It has filled our paper with a plethora of stories – from Josh Rosen’s injury, to the struggle of the run game, to the unclear future of UCLA football – and brought readers in to explore the rest of our content.
The season, although long and mercifully almost over, has been a lot more than a lesson on how to make lemonade out of lemons.
It’s taught me how to be a better writer; writing over 70 articles in two months will do that to you. And it’s allowed me to travel to different campuses – my key chain collection is growing – and become friends with football writers from other newspapers, from Texas A&M’s The Battalion to Arizona State University’s State Press.
I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t change a single thing about this season. But for the most part, it’s been one heck of a ride that I’m glad to have been a part of.
Michael Hull, assistant Sports editor
It’s no secret – the highest-ranked team on campus has been struggling recently.
The men’s water polo team has gone from being the team to beat to national underdogs in a little over a week’s time, after it dropped its second game to the recently appointed No. 1 USC.
The first game was hard to swallow, as a one-point last-minute ricochet was all that mattered in the end, but the second one that came on Sunday was harder.
These two teams are equally skilled in nearly every category – their goalies in Cutino Award winner senior Garrett Danner and Rio Olympian McQuin Baron, their centers in Gordon Marshall and Lachlan Edwards, their defense, their coaches – the comparisons go on.
With all the similarities, Sunday’s loss was disproportionately lopsided.
And the hard part about that was it was only in the first quarter. The Bruins came out flatter than flat and never recovered from a 3-0 hole.
But the takeaway was this too: Over the last three quarters, UCLA was dead-even with USC. Both teams scored two in the second, two in the third and two in the fourth.
Without the first quarter, that game would have been yet another down-to-the-wire rivalry game between these two teams.
No. 2 UCLA might get one more crack at No. 1 USC in the NCAA Tournament two weeks away. The team will have to get through likely No. 3 California to do so, and will have less than 24 hours to recover.
Granted, that’s a lot of ifs. UCLA didn’t play very well against Cal last Friday either, but the Bruins have come up with the win three times against the Bears this season.
Should they get through the semifinals and – again, most likely – play USC in the NCAA finals, it will set up a potentially storybook ending to the year and the star-studded senior class members’ careers, and you can be sure they won’t fall into that hole again if it’s on the sport’s biggest stage.
The losses were a wake-up call, and that’s what I’m thankful for.
Hanson Wang, assistant Sports editor
As an editor of the Daily Bruin, I understand the importance of checks and balances and being held accountable.
So in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I would like to extend a sincere “Thank you,” to The Den.
@hansondwang let us know when you have something nice to say or please get out of our mentions
— #UCLASSC (@uclatheden) October 2, 2016
The Den has an uncanny ability to bring out the best in people. After that lambasting, I did indeed toe the line, keeping myself out of their mentions. Little did I know, however, that that tweet was the precursor for a larger lesson I had yet to learn.
— #UCLASSC (@uclatheden) November 20, 2016
Thanks to The Den, I learned that my worth as a journalist is entirely tied to my follower count, and that I should try to be the only verified assistant Sports editor of the Daily Bruin.
But honestly, I know they put in hours of work preparing for every home football and basketball game – I just wish the rest of the student section would appreciate their work by being smarter sports fans and at least stay until the end of rivalry football games.
The Den leaders also have some pretty fire Twitter games. Just look at these prime roasts.
— Kyle Grozen (@kylegrozen) November 20, 2016
— Aseer Ali (@aseerali4) November 20, 2016
Straight fire all around.
Last but not least, I’d like to thank The Den for being the epitome of school spirit and reaching the semifinals of the Pac-12 Student Section Challenge. Even though no one relevant will probably read this, I hope you guys win. I think we can all agree that after Saturday night, UCLA needs some winning.
Grant Sugimura, assistant Sports editor
I’m going to keep my thoughts short.
I’m thankful for all the sports I’ve headed up this fall. I’ve had an absolutely outstanding time working with my writers and getting to know the various teams.
The sports themselves have been exhilarating. From the wild NCAA Tournament game that men’s soccer just played to the promising starts of swim and dive and women’s basketball, every sport I’ve covered has done quite well. And no matter how big a fan you are of any sports team, it’s always more fun when they do well.
I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.
David Gottlieb, assistant Sports editor
This year’s coverage of the women’s volleyball team has been an absolute blast for my writers and me, and I have but one person to thank for that: freshman setter Kylie Miller.
A sports writer’s nightmare is a team that stays the same all year long, without any adjustments or changes to write about.
This year, my writers and I are starting to lose track of just how many times coach Michael Sealy has changed things up, and he wouldn’t have been able to do so without Miller.
From the beginning, I expected a standard, one-setter rotation, and I had every reason to. That’s what they did last year, redshirt junior setter Ryann Chandler was healthy and Sealy told me himself that he’d be running a 5-1 this season.
But when I asked players what it was like to have a consistent setter in Chandler, all they kept telling me was how good Miller had been in practice.
Then Sealy decided he wanted to give playing time to both of his setters and run a 6-2, opening up a big giant mess of possibilities – yes, those are five different links –for my writers to cover in detail.
And in hindsight, I shouldn’t have been so surprised when Sealy rolled out the 6-2. Miller was an Under Armour First Team All-American and a candidate for California Gatorade Player of the Year in her senior year of high school.
So thank you, Kylie Miller, for giving Sealy the opportunity to make things interesting this season.
[Related: Out of System: Episode III]
Honorable mention for other things I’m thankful for this year: team manager Parsa Rezvani for coming on our podcast, and the whiteboard in Sealy’s office.