Wednesday, June 26

UCLA sand volleyball duos hope to impress at weekend tournament for nationals bids

When the sand volleyball team squares off against seven other teams in a weekend-long tournament, two duos will have their last opportunity to showcase why they deserve a spot at the national championship.

Although coach Stein Metzger said the team as a whole is unlikely to receive a bid, he said UCLA’s No. 1 duo of juniors Kelly Reeves and Meg Norton has a good chance to earn an individual one.

“If, in their individual matches, they beat Hawai’i and if they can beat Santa Clara, that’d be great,” he said. “But even with Pepperdine, if we can keep it close and maybe take a game off, that’d go a long way toward getting a bid.”

Reeves in particular will aim to continue an exciting few days of volleyball after being named yesterday to the Pac-12 indoor volleyball all-star team that will compete in China this June.

Also under the microscope this weekend will be the No. 2 pairing of freshman Becca Strehlow and sophomore Zoë Nightingale, the other duo Metzger said has a shot at a nationals bid.

Without a whole-team bid, only two pairs from each school are eligible for the bracket-style national championship, which is why UCLA’s No. 1 and No. 2 pairings are the two most likely to earn a bid.

But in addition to possibly earning a nationals berth this weekend, Strehlow said her goal is also simply to have a good meet that showcases the season’s progress.

“As long as we feel like we’ve gotten better from this very first practice to this last tournament, then that’s something we got out of (the meet).”

Even those contenders whose season is likely to end with this tournament are looking forward to showing off what they’ve learned.

“We kind went into this (season) knowing that we were the newbies and it was going to be a huge learning process for us,” sophomore Megan Moenoa said. “We all want to end strong and have this be our best performance as a team.”

One way to do that, Metzger said, is by beating No. 5 Hawai’i. If UCLA can pull off the upset, it will likely finish the season on top of Hawai’i in the final poll.

“They’ve been ranked one ahead of us pretty much all season and we haven’t had a chance to play them,” he said. “It’s a no-lose situation for us.”

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