Spring “break” was anything but for the UCLA sand volleyball team.
The Bruins closed out the week with a long, long road trip: four days, five matches, a double-elimination pairs tournament, pouring rain and, well, lots of traveling.
Coach Stein Metzger picked apart the team’s 3-2 record on the Bay Area road trip, which included wins over San Francisco, Santa Clara and Stanford, and found a common theme – improvement.
“I’m really pleased with the way the weekend went,” Metzger said. “I think the team as a whole, from the first matches we played Thursday to how we finished Saturday and Sunday, the entire team, team one through team six, improved through this road trip.”
Inside the many layers of the trip were the little bits and pieces the players embraced.
The No. 1 doubles team of sophomore Kamila Tan and freshman Jessyka Ngauamo made a key change in their tools. They switched from their typical bump-setting to hand-setting – an uncommon maneuver but not an unsuccessful one.
“(Hand-setting) made our side-out game a lot more consistent. And we probably only got called for hands only a handful of times throughout all our matches,” Metzger said.
But the same consistency wasn’t cut out for the conditions.
Saturday’s back-to-back-to-back matches were splattered with a downpour of rain. The water hard-packed the sand, making the Bruins’ matches more difficult than usual. Yet the team carved its own positives out of a less-than-ideal situation.
“It’s difficult, but everyone had a really fun time,” said senior Madie Smith. “It is something new that we’ve never experienced. It was … enjoyable.”
But at times the fun seemed buried deep beneath the rubble of the weekend.
UCLA’s two losses on the trip were both 5-0 sweeps at the hands of Hawai’i. But it was the same “improvement” – between the matches on Thursday and Saturday, respectively – the Bruins grabbed hold of.
“First time we played Hawai’i, we got beaten pretty bad,” Tan said.
“But the second time we saw them … we put up a really good fight. We took a lot of the games to three games. And even though we didn’t come out with any wins or anything, we still played really well and never gave up.”