UCLA beach volleyball has been on a roll, and it’s no coincidence.
“I gotta hand it to the athletes, they’ve been really focused on improving and getting better,” said coach Stein Metzger following UCLA’s eighth consecutive win of the season against Long Beach State on April 13.
Behind the Bruins’ improving record lies a maturation at a more localized level – one that owes its development to the coaches’ decision to opt for consistency in UCLA’s lineups.
“One thing we’ve done well is created teams from the beginning and stuck with them,” Metzger said. “We’ve been able to really work with partnerships and figure out what makes them work, where their difficulties might be and how we can adjust and improve in those situations.”
In the team’s 19 games played, UCLA has only deviated from its 10 core starters in five games. And those changes were reactionary, done in response to personnel injuries and illnesses rather than lineup tinkering or experimentation.
At full strength, No. 4 UCLA (15-4) has managed to maintain a 13-1 record, accentuated by a takedown of then-undefeated No. 2 Pepperdine, two wins over No. 5 Hawai’i and three over No. 6 Long Beach State.
On Wednesday, the Bruin starters will get a chance to potentially improve that record to 15-1 and close out the regular season with a 10-game win streak. The only things standing in their way will be Loyola Marymount (5-14) followed by hosts Cal State Northridge (5-11).
Although the Bruins already claimed a 5-0 victory over the Matadors earlier in the season, the final regular season game will be a novel matchup for two UCLA starters – freshman Zana Muno and sophomore Ivey Schmitt – who were unavailable in early March.
Once UCLA closes its regular season, the team will put its improvements to the test in next week’s Pac-12 tournament.
There, UCLA would likely face other top-tier Pac-12 teams in No. 1 USC and No. 7 Arizona looking to secure a coveted NCAA Tournament berth. And like the Matadors, the Trojans and the Wildcats might have already faced the Bruins once this season, but have yet to face a UCLA team at full strength.