Here in the East, we think almost everybody in California plays volleyball all the time. And it seems most do.

Outside hitter Jenny Evans of top-ranked UCLA practices on the beach in the mornings and then heads to class.

Others on the West Coast follow similar routines, which is a major reason Golden State powerhouses UCLA and the University of the Pacific will play for the NCAA Division I women's volleyball championship at 7:30 tonight at the University of Maryland's Cole Field House.

UCLA beat Louisiana State in three semifinal games in College Park Thursday night, 15-13, 15-10, 15-6. Pacific was taken to four games by a big, strong Nebraska team, 15-13, 11-15, 15-9, 15-12.

Struggling to find height and power in the sand no doubt hones the 5-foot-10 Evans's skills, and in the second game Thursday, the crowd of 4,273 watched her leap above the 7-4 net and slam the ball with resounding booms when she keyed three attacks, the final one with three straight kills to set up match point. She had a hit percentage of .571 and 17 kills for the match.

Marissa Hatchett, her 6-1 teammate who took over slam-dunk duties in the third game, had a .714 hit percentage and totaled 14 kills. Another boomer, 6-1 hitter Natalie Williams, had 12 kills.

"The women's game is getting more and more power," said Evans. "With people like {LSU's Monique} Adams, Natalie and Krissy {Fifer of Pacific}, most of the time they either kill the ball or keep it in play."

Flashy, photogenic kills -- when an airborne player blasts the ball down on the other side of the net -- are a staple in women's volleyball. For Pacific, 6-3 Fifer is the one to watch. In the fourth game against Nebraska, she was her own mini-team, slamming four straight kills and adding a play-saving dig, keying eight points. Fifer also had the last two kills of the match and a whopping hit percentage of .800.

Usually when a team keeps feeding the ball to one player, it's a sign of desperation, but in Pacific's case, "you could tell she was in a rhythm," said Pacific Coach John Dunning. "And when she's like that, there's not anybody who can stop her."

UCLA is expecting Fifer to be on target early tonight. Pacific's play was streaky in the semifinals, something setter Melanie Beckenhauer said was expected. But now, tournament jitters have been played out and while it appeared that Fifer was indeed unstoppable Thursday, Evans said it is not going to be that simple.

"She's just one player and Pacific's not like that -- they have many players who are good players," Evans said. "This game's going to be unlike last night's. We'll have to key on a lot of different players. That's not as easy as having one player."

Pacific was national champion in 1985 and 1986 and amply prepared for postseason play by competing in a conference that includes 1989 champion Long Beach State and three-time champion Hawaii. Right before the NCAA tournament, Pacific lost to UCLA in five games, 15-10, 9-15, 4-15, 15-13, 15-9.

"The key for us is to play relaxed, so we'll have a chance to play a ball-control game against UCLA because they dig so well, they get in a rhythm," Dunning said. "We'll have to find some way to stop Jenny and Natalie Williams coming at you; it strikes fear in anyone's heart. Last time we thought we did a great job -- we had 26 kills."

UCLA has made a habit of stretching things out. It has had more five-game matches this season than in the past two years combined, Coach Andy Banachowski said.

That has become an asset, allowing more than one player to step up and carry the team.

"We're unique," said Evans. "When some players are off, we have many and the setter doesn't have to go to just one player as often. And by doing that, the team's become a team."