By Mike Vietti
If there’s one thing that the 1994 UCLA volleyball team proved it’s that the old adage “there is strength in numbers” can be easily disproved.
The Bruins – one the most historically successful volleyball programs ever – suffered through injuries in 1994 and key graduation losses from the previous season to the point where there were many matches when UCLA played no more than six players.
That’s not a lot of margin for error and it resulted in head coach Andy Banachowski holding an open tryout for all UCLA students.
“We accepted a walk-on to the team from that tryout,” said Jenny (Johnson) Jordan, an All-American on the 1994 team. “We only traveled nine players throughout the year.”
Because there were only nine players, that meant UCLA didn’t have enough to go 6-on-6 during practice. And that resulted in some extra practice playing time for the coaches.
““It was a little different because we held back a bit in practice and didn’t go as hard as we could so that we could save ourselves a little bit,” Jordan said. “The coaches had to play a lot during practices that year.”
Despite the low numbers, the seventh-ranked Bruins (29-3) found themselves playing in the Gainesville Regional with No. 18 Houston (25-6), Duke (24-5) and No. 14 Florida (28-5).
The Bruins opened the regional by having few problems in getting by Duke in three games 15-3, 15-3, 15-4. Annett Buckner led all players with 12 kills on .476 hitting as UCLA out-hit the Blue Devils .476-.108 and finished with more kills (49-28) and digs (42-21).
Houston pulled off an upset in the second match of the day in stunning the host Gators in four games 13-15, 15-6, 15-11, 15-4 before a crowd on 1,582 Florida fans. The Cougar defense stymied the Gators as Florida hit .119 in the match. The Gators hit .213 in winning the first game, but were under .080 in the remaining games. The Cougars also dug up a good chunk of the Gator attacks as Houston out-dug Florida 64-47. Lilly Denoon-Chester led the Cougars with 19 kills on .389 hitting.
With a smaller crowd on hand the following day, the Bruins easily swept Houston 15-5, 15-7, 15-12 in the regional final. Four different UCLA players ended the match with at least 10 kills with Kim Krull collecting 14 on .435 hitting and Jordan chipping in with 13 kills and a match-high 14 digs.
The Bruins out-hit Houston .348-.199 and hit above .333 in all three games with setter Kelly Flannigan collecting the final point of the match with a dump down the middle of court.
UCLA went on to defeat Penn State in a thrilling Final Four match 3-15, 15-4, 15-9, 5-15, 15-11 before falling to Stanford in the national title contest in four games 10-15, 15-5, 14-16, 13-15.
“Despite the number of players we had on the team in 1994, we still had a great team and we all played our guts out against Stanford in the national championship match,” Jordan said.
1994 Gainesville Regional
No. 7 UCLA def. Duke 15-3, 15-3, 15-4
No. 18 Houston def. No. 14 Florida 13-15, 15-6, 15-11, 15-4
No. 7 UCLA def. No. 18 Houston 15-5, 15-7, 15-12
Gainesville Regional All-Tournament Team
Annett Buckner – UCLA
Kelly Flannigan – UCLA
Jenny Johnson – UCLA
Alyson Randick – UCLA
Lilly Denoon-Chester – Houston
Jenny Wood- Florida