UCLA Women's Volleyball Team

Chicks That KICK ASS! NCAA Women's Volleyball - by Jim Gianatsis

It's an exciting mix of Roller Derby and NBA Pro Basketball, with hot hard bodied 18-21 year old University Co-Eds digging, spiking, diving, fliping and crashing across the gymnasium floor in a 6-girl team's attempt to smash a little leather ball to the floor on the opponent team's side of an 8-foot high net. It's NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Women's Volleyball, one of the most exciting team sports in the world today. A sport that most people probably don't now much about, and even fewer have seen in person.

Super hot 6-foot 3-inch Amazonian's in super tight spandex short-shorts and shirts, in incredible physical shape. Kicking the ass out of an 8-inch leather ball and the opposing team. Plus these are college girls with brain smarts who could will be ready to financially support their boyfriends in a few years. Charlie Sheen can have his porn stars. These are the girls we love, would want to abuse us, and then take home to mom.

Most people's exposure to women's volleyball comes through 2-person Beach Volleyball on prime time TV at the Summer Olympics, when American players like Misty May and Keri Walsh took home the Gold in Women's Volleyball But once you get past the skimpy bikinis on the girls, the game just isn't that exciting because two people can't really move around quickly on a sand court and cover it very effectively. It's mostly much just spiking the ball over the net and score. And that gets boring really quickly. Sorta like men's pro tennis.

We got into attending to University level Women's Volleyball games just 3 years ago after discovering and watching it on TV for a year. If you have Direct TV you'll find it on the University sports channels round 610 and 680. Run a search on your TiVo for "volleyball and it will come up. Be sure to pick out the games broadcast in HD, particularly if you have a HD big screen TV. You'll need it to keep track of everything it moves so quickly. And replay in Slow Motion gets a real workout.

In the NCAA college, and in high school, they play hard court volleyball on a solid floor with 6 players per side. The action moves really fast, it involves every player on the team, the ball can be hit and passed up to 3-times before it must go over the net, and many times volleys can go on for 20-30 seconds or more with the ball hit back and forth over the net a dozen times. The action goes so fast you often miss many of the moves, and referee calls, so its nice to be able rewind and replay in slow motion what you missed when watching on TV.

The game is also much more technical than you could ever image. Each player on the team has been trained for a specialty position like Blocker, Outside Hitter, Setter, and Libero. Which is well and good if they always played the same position on the court....

But if you remember from your high school Phys Ed class, the team has to rotate one position clockwise every time they loose a point. The players have to sorta stay in that new position until the ball is served, after which they often revert back to their specialty position. Add to that, the coach can send in up to 18 substitute players per game, usually to counter on the front row at the net where the other school has rotated their best opposing players. The 3 players on the back row can move anywhere on court, but if they are hitting the ball over the net it must be from behind the 10-foot line.

Add to that, each team also has that special player, called a "libero". The libero is a specialist defensive player that can replace any other player in the back row. They are not officially subbed in, rather they can just walk on the court whenever they want to replace a player, but it is usually when they are receiving a new serve from the other team. The libero must wear a contrasting jersey, compared to the rest of the team, so they are easily identified to the referee. They may not serve, or hit (at the ball) above the net. They normally go in and replace the weakest receiving player on their team when the other side is serving. The libero's main job is to receive the ball and pass it to the setter. They are usually a shorter person than the rest of the team, maybe 5'6' as they have to take a lot of hard service hits and make saving dives across the floor to keep the ball from going down. If a player can get their hand under the ball before it touches the floor, called a "pancake", the ball will remain in play and bounce back up were another team mate can keep it in play.

Above: Here's a great picture showing UCLA's Dicey McGraw (7) spiking the ball over the net into an Oregon State 2-man block that was already airborne and expecting her. If the ball gets blocked back into the UCLA court, the rest of the 5-person UCLA team is already there behind Dicey and waiting to keep it in play and send it back again. Other strategies going through Dicey's mind while she's jumping up to spike the ball, if she thinks the opposing block will be too effective, she can angle the hit to knock the ball off the tops of their fingers or sideways to go out of bounds which also scores them a point. Below, Pepperdine makes a similar spike against an opposing team double block. A really good hitter might find herself going up against 3 blockers each time from the other team.

The setter is the most important player on the team. They are somewhat like the quarterback on a football team. The team mate receiving the ball served from the team on the other side, tries to pass it to the setter, who then in a split second, has to pass (set) it to their best available hitter who has the cleanest shot to hit it back over the net to the floor and score a point, without being blocked by the opposing team. That hitter could be anyone, including the setter herself. If a ball does get blocked and comes back like a ricocheting bullet, the rest of the team has to already be in position behind the hitter to recover the ball and keep it in play. Sometimes a block from the other team is good if the hitter angles the ball to ricochet off their hands and go off court. Then you score a point just as well as.

College big -league volleyball gets even more complicated then you can really see. Just like in football the coaches watch game videos beforehand of the other teams they'll be playing. And based on the other team's players' abilities, and their position on the court, the opposing coach will set up their starting rotational line up to counter the other team, and will have different game plans for every opposing player as they rotate around the court.

UCLA Game plan sheetAbove: This is UCLA Coach Mike Sealey's secret game plan for play against Univerity Southern California (USC) at the final 2010 season Pac-10 Conference game. Mike compiled it from watching 3 different most recent video games of USC playing Stanford, California and Oregon. The 6-Player circle in the upper right are USC's 6 Starting Players and their positions on the court. The numders below the Player's Name/Number are their current statistics for Kills, Digs and Blocks. You can see player Alex Jupiter (7) has some petty impressive numbers including 4.41 Kills averaged per game. The 6 different floor maps below show where Jupiter and her team mates tend to hit as they rotate around the court, and where the UCLA players need to be in place to oppose them.

It's also one of the best values in sports and entertainment today. A University game will cost you just $6-10 dollars to get in for an up front bleacher seat, you'll probably get a free T-shirt from the hosting school's team in school colors reading something like "UCLA BEAT STANFORD", and a color program and poster picturing the home school' steam which you can meet in person after the game and have autographed. Try that at any other Professional or NCAA sport. You can't.

Jack Nicholson probably paid a thousand dollars or more to get his front row bleacher seat at an LA Lakers Game. You can do him one better and get a court side seat, padded chair, usually closer to the center net than the team itself is sitting, for just $10 at some University games. You will, however, be catching and dodging balls all night and having girls falling in you lap as they try to save an out-of-bounds ball. Bring it on!

Above: At a the 2010 season home game UCLA's Katie Camp stuffs a ball through the double block of University of Oregon's Heather Meyers (12) and Katherine Fischer 12). The next month UCLA traveled to Oregon for rematches with Oregon and Oregon State. The Bruins, below, came home battered and bruised, victorious and happy again, but this time with with Katie in a wheel chair with a torn ACL in her knee which would require surgery and have the Junior out of play for the rest of the season.

UCLA Women's Volleyball in Oregon

Each team is only allowed 3 hits of the ball before it must be returned over the net. Photo 1 Above: UCLA "Lebero" Lainey Gera dives to the floor to catch a ball just hit over the net, flipping it back up into play where "Setter" Lauren Cook (2) will hit it up high for "Outside Hitter" Dicey McGraw (7). Photo 2 below: Dicey then spikes theball back over the net into the hands of two waiting Washington State "Blockers." Note that Dicey already has 3 UCLA group around her to catch the ball if it is blocked back. This all happens in less than 2 seconds with more action and excitement than a major league football play.

Oregon State's Tayla Wood's (21) looks like she'll be stuffing a ball through the UCLA block, but UCLA libero Lainey Gera (6) in the contrasting jersey is ready for it. Tayla's jump is hitting almost 4 feet above the 8-foot net.

I live in Los Angles so I made my favorite women's volleyball team the UCLA (University of California ) Bruins in nearby Westwood. But within the same distance I have half a dozen other top University volleyball teams to attended including USC (University of Southern California) and Pepperdine. Both UCLA and USC play in the Pac-10 Division, which includes the 10 biggest University teams on the West Coast and makes up the toughest division in the NCAA with 5-6 of our Pac-10 teams including UCLA regularly ranked in the top 20 teams nationally.

The Pac-10 Conference in which UCLA plays is regarded as the toughest conference in NCAA Women's Volleyball. At this 2010 season game against Stanford University (at the time ranked #1 team in the Conference / #2 team in NCAA nationally) my home team UCLA (in Pink jerseys to commentate Breast Cancer Awareness Month) took the win. We were only ranked #11 nationally at the time but proved we could win against anyone, that's just how close all the top teams are. Below, the UCLA Bruins celebrate their win! UCLA finished out the 2010 season 3rd in Conference behind California and Standford, and 9th overall in the NCAA, qualifying UCLA for a shot in the National Championship Finals.

You canjoined the UCLA Women's Volleyball Benefactor's Club with a generous donation to the school's athletic program. What this buys is court side seating at every Women's Volleyball home game, a private chalk talk with Head Coach Mike Sealy before every game. And invitations to dinners and special trips with the team. Plus 2 get General Admission Tickets to every UCLA sporting event over the year, including football and basketball, both for you and a guest. Pretty awesome!

Above and below: Oregon's Heather Myers is a devistating Outside Hitter, here taking on the double block of UCLA's Katie Camp (8) and Dicey McGraw (7). Note the 3 UCLA defensive players already behind to stop the spiked ball if it gets through the block.

Above and Below: One of my favorite players in NCAA is University of Oregon's beautiful #10 Heather Meyers, a 5'11" Outside Hitter from Temecula, CA. Heather is one of the top players on the Oregon squad and in the Pac-10 Conference with a devastating high jump, high speed spike that's hard to stop. Here the UCLA bench including the coaches watch in awe as Heather nails her big jump serve in their 2010 game on UCLA's home turf. Think of Heather as the Michael Jordan of Women's NCAA Volleyball. - Jim Gianatsis

Heather Meyers
Heather Meyers, Jim Gianatsis


Yes, Volleyball has Cheerleaders too!
The home team will have their cheerleaders in action at every gave to get the fans and the team motivated.

What a deal - With your $6-10 game admission you might also get a free T-shirt!

Volleyball Spectator Attendance Varies Greatly in Different Regions of the Country.
With so many professional and college sports, and other entertainment draws taking place every night of the week in major metropolitan areas like Los Angles, games at UCLA and USC generally draw just 500-1000 spectators to the school's 8,000 seat sports auditoriums. Get there an hour early to watch warm up practice and you can sit anywhere you want.

However in areas of the midwest like Nebraska, the schools will sell out their 6,000 seat sports arenas to season ticket holders the first day of ticket sales before the season even starts.
This in turn gives Nebraska the money to have one of the best Volleyball teams and recruitment programs in the country.

Zoe Nightingale
Above and Below: Newly singned UCLA recruit Zoe Nightingale, a 6'3" Middle Blocker senior from St.Francis High School in Sacramento was in attendace at the 2010 UCLA games, a year before joining the 2011 UCLA team. UCLA coaches actually approached and signed Zoe in March 2008 of her high school Sophmore year, showing how competitive the top college toeams are to recruit the best players. Zoe finished out her High School Senior season as one of the top 24 players in the country.

Zoe Nightingale

Hot New Recruits
With a larger than 25% turnover in collegiate players every year, scouting new Freshman recruits for next year's team is nearly a full time job for the University's coaching staff.

Pictured above these high school players, including the two 6'2' foot tall blond girls, were being scouted by UCLA and were attending a game. The starting lineup of any collegiate volleyball team is probably there on a full Scholarship, including room and board on campus.

A big school like UCLA has up to 20 players on their team, while a smaller school might only have 12 players. Of those players only 9-10 might be regular starting players based on their skills. The others are Freshman paying their own way through school, maybe 6 of which in a big team like UCLA might never get into a regular season game. Those players will get discouraged with all the hard workouts, traveling and attendance at all games, then never getting to play, and probably won't return to the team the following season as Sophomores.

The UCLA team started the 2010 season with 7 new Freshman and lost 3 of them by mid-season, down to a team of 17 total. So along with the normal loss of 25% of the team to graduation each year, the loss of non starters means the recruiting process really needs to bring in 35-40% new players each year.

Recruiting can get vicious at times. In the spring of 2010, UCSA lost their only setter, Lauren Cook, who returned home to Nebraska to play where her father is head coach. New UCLA coach Mike Sealy had to find a new setter quickly with Lauren Van Orden, a Junior stolen from San Diego State.

Bringing in "Ringers" is legal too. In 2009 UCLA brought in
Mari Hole from Norway, and for 2010 it was Mariana Aquino from Brazil. Both are valuable assets to the squad.

The UCLA team girls are very close, having their own dormitory floor on campus with separate bed rooms, but a common lounge, kitchen and bathroom/shower.

UCLA Women's Volleyball Finishs 4th in Conference
Qualifies for NCAA Finals

Nov. 26th 2010 - Our favorite University of California Los Angeles UCLA Bruins Womens Volleyball team had a fantastic game last might against USC! It was a so close game, going all the way to the 5th set 14 to 16 loss. The Bruins have shown all season with their defeat earlier of NCAA previously ranked #1 Stanford, and the other so close 5th set 14 to 16 loss against CAL State they remain one of the top teams in the county.

Last night's game was also a tribute to final season graduating Seniors, Dicey McGraw and Amber McBenttz (pictured on the link above with editer Jim Gianatsis). It totally sucks in college sports that the game can't go on forever. Here is to UCLA to Kick Ass in the NCAA finals next month. Look for the games on ESPN sports TV under "Volleyball".

Womens NCAA Volleyball



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UCLA Bruins take on the Uiversity of Oregon Ducks at UCLA
Here Senior Ducks leader Heather Meyers (10) serves, blocks, gives her team mates instructions and scores.

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