UCLA keeps its focus for the long run

December 17, 1990|By John W. Stewart

It was obvious from the start that UCLA was the team with a mission for the National Collegiate Athletic Association championship.

It was UCLA, the No. 1-ranked team in the country, against No. 5 University of the Pacific before a Cole Field House crowd of 5,314.

So, in a 1-hour, 15-minute acrobatic display featuring defense TC and great blocking, the Bruins beat Pacific, 15-9, 15-12, 15-7. The result extended the UCLA winning streak to 33 games in a 36-1 season, the loss coming against Nebraska in Hawaii in early September. Pacific ended with a mark of 30-7.

"We had a great start and set the tempo," said Andy Banachowski, completing his 24th year as head coach at UCLA, and savoring a second NCAA title and sixth overall (four Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women crowns). "The way it went, we put everything together that we had talked about all year."

Later, he was able to say: "This was very gratifying, very special to me because of how well this team came together. From the standpoint of being a team, this is the best I've had at UCLA."

Earlier in the week, it had been easy for Banachowski to pinpoint what brought this team together.

"About the end of October, we were starting to play well and I brought in a psychologist to talk to the team. In the previous two years, we had reached the Final Four as the No. 1 team, then been swept away in three straight games. I wanted to be sure our players were focused on what lay ahead.

"The man was Dr. Bill Parham. He's on the staff at UCLA. I think he helped a lot. He got the players' trust, then emphasized that the key was getting them to believe in themselves and each other. We needed them to concentrate better, identifying and dealing with the stress of the moment."

Samantha Shaver, a senior starter, pointed out that the sessions with Parham helped because "we were able to translate his self-visualization ideas, the imagery, to the matches. We learned to depend on one another, to be there for each other.

"The earlier two years, we had depended on one or two persons, and when they didn't play well, we struggled. This year, we don't just have starters and backups, we have a team. Somebody has an off-night, we pick it up in other areas. We count on everybody."

Jenny Evans, a junior starter, said she believed Parham was the difference. "You look for reasons why we lost those last two years, especially last year, and the answer was we were looking in the past, worried about not doing well again.

"He taught us how to play in the present. There were relaxation drills, how to focus, and he showed us graphs about how you could be over or under-excited."

Shaver said that there was more pressure before the semifinal with Louisiana State (a 3-0 UCLA victory) Thursday night. There was an awareness of the past two years, and some nervousness, but basically the team was focused on the job at hand.

"For the final, there was no nervousness," Shaver said. "We were just really excited."

It was Pacific that came out looking tense and nervous, and several of the players said they never felt comfortable. "I was blocked on the first point of the game [by Marissa Hatchett and Shaver] and never got into a rhythm. And neither did the team," said Pacific's Devin Scruggs.

And much later, there was UCLA's Evans laughing and saying, "No, my injured ankle didn't bother me. I'm just so glad we were able to win the way we did -- with a great team effort. It's the best feeling, and I never want to win any other way."

The All-Tournament team

Natalie Williams, Marissa Hatchett, Jenny Evans, Holly McPeak, UCLA; Krissy Fifer, Pacific; Monique Adams, Louisiana State University. Most outstanding player -- Williams.

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