LOS ANGELES – NAIA Preseason No. 1 Vanguard opened its 2013-14 campaign with an exhibition game at UCLA on Thursday night in Pauley Pavilion. The Lions were even with the Bruins at the break, but eventually fell 66-57 in the contest. Senior Nicole Ballestero (Orange, Calif.) finished with 18 points, while sophomore Samantha Doucette (Irvine, Calif.) added 17 points and six rebounds.
Vanguard came out tentative in the opening minutes of the contest, unaccustomed to the atmosphere at the NCAA Division I venue, and found itself trailing the Bruins at the 6:42 mark by 11 points.
That would be UCLA's largest first period lead, however, as the young Pride squad gradually gained confidence and the realization that it could compete with its Pac-12 opponent.
The Lions' aggressive and elevated play perplexed the Bruins, and by the end of the period VU had tied the game at 27-all. Ballestero paced the Blue and Gold with 10 first-half points and Doucette added eight on 3-for-5 shooting.
UCLA's Nirra Fields matched Ballestero's effort through 20 minutes, scoring 10 before the break. She went 3-for-11 from the field.
The Lions opened the second with a turnover, but regained possession following a block by Doucette.
Vanguard kept the game within four for nearly eight minutes in the second, before UCLA mounted an 11-2 run in a four minute span to claim a 56-41 advantage.
The Bruins led by 17 at 4:17, but Doucette and senior Taylor Belmont (Oregon City, Ore.) cut the margin to 12 with back-to-back buckets for VU.
Ballestero nailed a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession to bring the Lions within 10, but UCLA's 6-foot 9-inch center, Savanna Trapp, drew a foul and hit both free-throws to put the Bruins out front 64-52 with under two minutes to play.
The Lions got another long-ball from Ballestero next, but traded buckets on the final two trips down the floor to end the contest at 66-57.
Doucette shot 70 percent from the field and went 1-for-1 from deep in the affair.
Sophomore Jordie Smith (Wilton, Calif.) had a solid defensive performance for the Lions, compiling four blocked shots in the game. She also grabbed six rebounds and managed a team-best four assists.
Newcomer Ashleigh Anderson (Oregon City, Ore.) collected seven off of the glass in her Vanguard debut. She also scored nine points for the Pride.
Next up for the Lions is another NCAA Division I exhibition game. Vanguard will take on California on the road Friday, Nov. 1st at 8:30 pm.