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Spring 1998
That Championship Season
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We Will Rock You . . . Again!

Walk into Pauley Pavilion any weekday afternoon and you’ll find a warm, energetic, thirtysomething basketball coach, radiating positive attitude and conducting practice with seemingly boundless enthusiasm.

Steve Lavin? Guess again. UCLA women's basketball coach Kathy Olivier has the 1997-’98 Bruins making a run at the elite teams of the Pac-10 and vying for their first NCAA tournament berth since 1992.

“We're on the rise,” says Olivier. “We’ve had some really good recruiting classes and are improving our non-conference schedule -- playing the top-notch programs like Connecticut, Tennessee and Texas -- both of which will help get us to that national level.”

In her 12th year with the Bruins and fifth as head coach, Oliver has finally assembled the blue-chip talent Westwood needs in a team that boasts the last two Pac-10 Freshmen of the Year, point guard Erica Gomez and forward Maylana Martin. Gomez missed all of last season thanks to a major knee injury, but is back in top form this year as the Bruins’ floor general. And Olivier recently signed prep star Michelle Greco, the 1997 Los Angeles Daily News Player of the Year. Although loaded with talent, the team is young, starting four sophomores and a junior. But Olivier, a onetime Cal State Fullerton rival, commands great respect from her players and is being credited with forging a dynasty-in-the-making. "She's a motivator and is always so positive and pumped up,” says Gomez. “It’s just like she's a player."

“Next year, they should be an elite program,” says ’78 national champion Ann Meyers, now a TV commentator. “All the players are getting a lot of minutes and experience, and by then they will have learned how to win close games.” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer agrees. “They’re young, but they’re big and they’re physical and they play really well together,” explains the dean of Pac-10 women’s coaches. “UCLA has a great tradition and the Bruins have a lot to look forward to with the young players they have. Pauley is going to be a tough place to play for the next couple of years.” Stick around, UCLA hoop fans. The women’s team is making itself heard in the Pac-10, and by the time you read this, the Bruins might be roaring back into the NCAA tournament.

--Jim Downs '93

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