Women's Volleyball Makes Its Own History
Published Apr 1, 2012 8:00 AM
Championships are also common on the women's volleyball court. The Bruin women's team has built a dynasty of its own with seven national titles, including four NCAA championships—the most recent in 2011, when it won UCLA's 108th NCAA banner. In parallel to the story of the men's team, the women's squad has fielded a who's who of legendary coaches and players over the decades.
National Volleyball Hall of Fame Coach Andy Banachowski retired in 2010 after 43 years at UCLA with the most wins of any Division I women's volleyball coach. His successor, Michael Sealy '93, didn't miss a beat, leading the women's team to an NCAA championship only two years after being named head coach.
For Laurie Lewis Havel '72, named one of UCLA's 25 greatest volleyball players in 1997, the Bruin program "is a hallmark of the sport of volleyball." After competing in the 1968 Olympics, Havel joined the team in 1969 and led the Bruins to their first women's championship in 1972.
"It was a different time and a different team," she says of that title. "There was much less hoopla, no Internet, no scholarships, and the sport was just emerging … so kudos and congratulations to [last] year's team on their win! It's exciting to know that we were the first, and that they are carrying on the tradition and the dedication."
Last season's victory was particularly sweet, given that it wasn't supposed to happen.
"We came into the tournament as the underdogs," says senior Lainey Gera. (The Bruins entered the postseason ranked No. 9 in the nation.) "We played as a stronger team because of the challenges we had faced together this year."
And the team continues to develop superstars. With 20 kills in the 2011 title game, junior Rachael Kidder looks to be next in the line of elite volleyball players to emerge from the Bruin program. After being chosen as Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four, she became the 53rd Bruin named to the Volleyball Magazine All-American honor roll, earning UCLA's 22nd first-team accolade.
What comes next? There are echoes of an historic legacy in Kidder's answer.
"I want to help our team win another championship," she says with a smile.