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UCLA Olympic Sports Update, January 2nd


Happy New Year! Hopefully 2012 can be a great one for UCLA and for Bruin Nation.

Here is what’s been happening with two of the Bruins’ Olympic sports as the new year is underway:

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL –   Cori Close’s team has been struggling as much as their football and men’s basketball counterparts, losing five of their last six games on their way to their record currently standing at 6-7 overall and 1-1 in the Pac-12 Conference.

The Lady Bruins’ one win since December 4 was their Pac-12 opener against California on the 29th at the John Wooden Center, which saw UCLA winning over the Golden Bears 60-55. Thea Lemberger stepped up for the Bruins with a career-high 26 points, with Markel Walker adding 18 and the team making like Shaquille O’ Neal in blocking 13 shots, with Corinne Costa contributing seven of them.

The reward for that performance? Merely having to try and beat the fourth-ranked team in the country, perennial Pac-10/12 basketball queen Stanford on New Year’s Eve.

Like the football and men’s basketball teams on the same day, these Bruins couldn’t hang with the Cardinal at the John Wooden Center, getting blown out by a 77-50 score. Walker and Rebekah Gardner were UCLA’s bright spots, Walker getting 11 points and seven rebounds with Gardner leading the Bruins with 17 points to go along with her six boards.

Considering that Jasmine Dixon, the Bruins’ best player, and Atonye Nyingifa, who has been the leading scorer this season to date, are both out for the year with torn knee ligaments, maiming the team’s offensive attack, UCLA is fortunate to be 1-1 in the conference.

They will head for the desert this weekend to face Arizona on Thursday the 5th, and Arizona State on Saturday the 7th.

MEN’S VOLLEYBALL –  The season is about to start for the men’s volleyball team, as they try to match their lady counterparts and win a national championship of their own.

These Bruins won an exhibition match against British Columbia on December 30th, and have another exhibition this Thursday, but the story with this team is their coach.

Al Scates, after 50 years as UCLA’s head men’s volleyball coach, is retiring at the end of the season.

Some has said that the term “Wizard of Westwood” should be applied to Scates as much as it applies to John Wooden, as no coach, male or female, has won more volleyball games at the Division I level – 1,217.

HIs 19 NCAA championships and 21 national titles overall, which includes streaks of four in the 1980s and three in the 1990s, not only lead all volleyball coaches, but all college coaches in ANY sport.

If that’s not a legend, then there’s no such thing as one, and if you don’t think the current crop of Bruin volleyballers want desperately to win one more national championship for this man, think again.

The season will get going in earnest this weekend with a tournament at UC Santa Barbara.