COLLEGE PARK -- The big hitters, Krissy Fifer for University of the Pacific and Natalie Williams for UCLA, will draw much of the attention, but the outcome of tonight's women's national championship volleyball match (7:30) may well depend on the health of two other team stars.
UCLA's Jenny Evans and Pacific's Cathey Scotlan needed ice packs after they played key roles at Cole Field House in Thursday night's semifinals in the 10th National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament.
Evans has a sprained left ankle and Scotlan, a sore right shoulder. Each admitted there was some pain, and they had JTC either not practiced or practiced poorly because she was more conscious of her injury.
"The practices have been the worst, but once you get in a game and the adrenalin starts flowing, you don't even notice it," Evans said yesterday during a news conference.
The Bruins are a balanced team, including a solid supporting cast behind the starters, but it is unlikely they can win without a full-time effort from Evans, a 5-foot-10 junior who is the hardest hitter on the team. Although she missed out on Thursday, Evans has had double-figure kills (hits not returned) and digs (saves off the floor) in five of the last eight games.
Scotlan, a 6-1 senior, is considered the most dominant blocker in Pacific history and currently ranks seventh on the NCAA career list. In Pacific's four-game triumph over second-ranked Nebraska, Scotlan had team highs of two solo and six assisted blocks. She also had 10 kills, marking the 20th time in 36 matches that she had reached double figures.
During the year, Pacific and UCLA met once --the final regular-season match for both -- with the Bruins rallying to win the last two games of a five-game struggle, 15-13, 15-9. That, and four tournament wins have helped extend an unbeaten streak to 32 in a 35-1 campaign.
"The key for us will be the need to come out and play hard, and we'll need a good serving match to disrupt their floor game. We've all seen what a powerful hitting team UOP is," declared UCLA coach Andy Banachowski, whose team gained the final with a three-game sweepnof Louisiana State University.
"For Pacific, the key will be playing relaxed -- the way we have the last few weeks," reported six-year coach John Dunning, who guided the Tigers to NCAA titles in 1985 and 1986. "We must stop Evans and Williams. Williams strikes fear. I thought we did a great job on her last time and she had 26 kills."
Fifer, 6-3, and Williams, a 6-1 sophomore and daughter of Nate Williams, a nine-year National Basketball Association player with the Kansas City-Omaha Kings and New Orleans Jazz in the 1970's, have that superb ability to turn a match into an individual highlight film.
This was particularly true of Fifer against Nebraska -- a great match on paper which never really materialized on the court -- when she more than lived up to her reputation as a "Terminator."
Fifer had five kills as Pacific rallied from a 7-3 deficit to run off eight straight points in the decisive fourth game. Then she added the last two points of the match after the Cornhuskers had pulled to within 13-12.
Banachowski, in his 24th year as head coach of the Bruins, a tenure that includes a national title in 1984, looked at Fifer and shook his head. "We just hope John (Dunning) forgets to sub her [after she comes out for a rest]," to which Dunning responded, "No way. And besides, Krissy has suggested that a few times already."
In the words of University of California coach Dave DeGroot, "You have to set the hot hitter."
According to Dunning, "If I were setting (UCLA's hot hitter), I'd go to Williams and (Marissa) Hatchett [another 6-1 Bruins sophomore] as often as possible. When they're hot, no one can stop them."
Facts and figures
What: NCAA Women's Volleyball Championship
Where: Cole Field House, College Park
When: Tonight, 7:30
Teams: UCLA vs. Pacific
Directions: Baltimore-Washington Parkway to College Park exit; Route 193 (University Boulevard) west to Stadium Drive on left (about one mile beyond Route 1). Field house is next to Byrd Stadium.