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That Championship Season

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Spring 1998
That Championship Season
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The team started the season with four wins, but then hit bumpy terrain on their first-ever East Coast road trip during the Christmas break. The women struggled through an 84-78 loss to Delta State in Madison Square Garden, with Meyers committing four quick fouls and Curry managing only 10 points, the closest she would come in her UCLA career to missing double digits. The Bruins managed to come back against Rutgers, 104-77 at the Garden, but lost again at Maryland, 92-88.

The women finished their Eastern swing with a win against Kentucky and another devastating loss to North Carolina State, the low point of the season. The highly touted Bruins, projected as Final Four finishers, were suddenly 6-3. “I remember sitting in the showers and just crying,” says Meyers. “I blamed myself -- here it was my senior year, and we were expected to do well.” As it turned out, the grueling road trip cemented the team bond, ultimately boosting the players’ confidence, even as it brought into relief their weaknesses. “Although we lost to three top-10 teams on that trip, our players came away feeling ‘Hey, these are the best teams in the country. We’ve got to shoot a little better, play a little harder, but next time around we can beat them,’” says Michael Sondheimer, the longtime associate director of UCLA women’s athletics who was then a first-year team publicist. “That trip won UCLA the national championship.”

The loss to N.C. State proved the Bruins’ last, as the team breezed through the rest of the regular season winning games by an average of nearly 36 points per game, capturing the Southern California Intercollegian Conference title. The team beat Moore-less Fullerton twice, by 46 and 27, a double drubbing that still sticks in the memory of current UCLA head coach Kathy Olivier, a freshman player on the vanquished Fullerton team.

Then, suddenly, it was March, time for the dreaded bugaboo of the West Regionals, the occasion of so many past disappointments and defeats. This time they were being held at Stanford University, but with a new local rival lying in wait -- Cal State Long Beach.

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