When you picture a sand volleyball court, it’s easy to imagine the peaceful background of an empty beach, the ocean and blue skies.
However, when that court is in the middle of No. 1 USC’s campus and surrounded by a partisan home crowd, the environment instead feels like a hostile one.
This undoubtedly had an effect on a developing UCLA sand volleyball team as it lost to both LMU and its local rival in a double-header on Thursday, 4-1 and 5-0 respectively.
“We don’t look at it as playing against the No. 1 team,” said sophomore Karly Drolson, who was in the doubles pairing that secured the Bruins’ sole victory of the day. “But the noise of the band and the fans really made it difficult at times.”
Though losing against the more experienced USC side was perhaps understandable, coach Stein Metzger put the preceding surprise loss to unranked LMU down to the nature of their preparations.
“It was down to us as coaches not highlighting LMU as the important match,” Metzger said. “They wanted to beat us and we started slow and never really recovered. It wasn’t until the USC game that we woke up.”
Although focusing on the local rivalry perhaps took the Bruins’ eyes off of the ball in their first matchup, Metzger also felt that not having a court to practice on played a significant role.
“LMU had already played a game before us,” he said. “We effectively came in cold and I think that came back to bite us.”
UCLA’s lone triumph came in the No. 5 contest against LMU in which Drolson and her sophomore partner Rachel Inouye defeated their opponents in straight sets.
“Our first game went really well, we got into a groove early and went with it,” Inouye said. “We lost that a bit in our second match and by the time we warmed up it was too late.”
The No. 6 Bruins move to 6-5 for the season, but despite the disappointment of two losses they take heart from the improvement shown against USC.
“As a team, even though it doesn’t show in wins and losses, I think the fight that we put up against the No. 1 team made it a good day,” Inouye said. “We can take that into our upcoming practices and competitions.”
UCLA has the weekend to prepare for its next game, which will see the team travel to Long Beach State on Tuesday.