UCLA WOMEN’S VOLLEYBALL WINS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP!

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All of Bruin Nation is proud, thanks to the women’s volleyball program.

Mike Sealy has been incredible and phenomenal in taking over for longtime coach and Bruin icon Andy Banachowski, as the second-year coach’s ninth-seeded Bruins won their fourth NCAA championship – and seventh national title overall dating back to the AIAW days – this past Saturday night in San Antonio, TX,  convincingly beating the #3 seed, Illinois, in four sets, 25-21, 23-25, 26-24, and putting an exclamation point on the whole thing in winning the fourth set 25-16, never trailing in the process.

It was UCLA first NCAA title in women’s volleyball in 20 years, the last time being in 1991, and the school’s 108th NCAA championship overall, retaining their lead in that category and reaffirming UCLA’s place as the nation’s top athletic school.

This title-clinching triumph leaves their won-loss record at 30-6.

Rachael Kidder was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player and earned that honor with a team-leading 20 kills, but it would be wrong to say that Kidder was a one-woman gang, as she had plenty of help;  senior Lauren Van Orden had 53 assists from the setter position and 17 digs, while  junior middle blocker Tabi Love contributed 14 kills of her own and freshman middle blocker Zoe Nightingale earned praise from Sealy and her teammates with 11 blocks.

The Bruins outhit the Fighting Illini .333 – .250, and senior middle blocker Sara Sage did the honors with a kill for the championship point.

Van Orden and Nightingale joined Kidder on the all-tournament team for their efforts.

Sealy channeled his inner John Wooden in his comments after the game, saying:

“I told them we were champions before we arrived in the building tonight and we’re going to be champions when we leave the building tonight, whether you handle that block of wood or not.”

I think it’s safe to say that the former UCLA coaching legend would be very pleased and proud of what Sealy said.

The team is losing five seniors out of the 18 players on the roster, including Van Orden and Sage, but the chances of repeating as national champs and not being a one-hit wonder are excellent as Kidder, Love, Nightingale, sophomores Mariana Aquino and Kelly Reeves, and junior Bojana Todorovic all return in 2012.

Being that Kidder and Nightingale are 6′ 3″, and Love is 6′ 5″, the outside hitter and middle blocker positions looks great for next year, and there’s no reason why the Bruins shouldn’t at least be strong contenders to make it back-to-back titles.

In the meantime, Westwood has good reason to celebrate!

Here are two highlight clips of this Bruin Women’s Volleyball team, the first being their fourth set and victory against Illinois, and the second clip being a slideshow of the ladies:

2011 NCAA Women’s Volleyball Championship – #9 UCLA Vs. #3 Illinois (Part 4 of 4) on YouTube

2011 Womens Volleyball NCAA Champions – UCLA Bruins on YouTube