After starting off the season with a pair of wins, the UCLA beach volleyball (2-2) team fell short to No. 4 Pepperdine (1-1) and No. 1 USC (2-0) at the Pepperdine Kick-Off in Malibu.
This year, the No. 3 Bruins are coming off a third-place finish in the NCAA women’s beach volleyball championship. Beach volleyball celebrated its first season as an NCAA-sponsored championship sport last year in which the Trojans claimed the inaugural title.
A pair of 2-3 losses against two top-five opponents, while disappointing for the Bruins, is encouraging for head coach Stein Metzger.
This time last year in the same competition, UCLA was swept 0-5 and 0-5 against the two fellow Southern California schools.
The team is led by the McNamara Twins, Megan and Nicole, who are returning after a sensational freshman campaign that saw them compete at a high level as a pair while taking on the role of playing on the one court.
“As good as they were last year, I think they’re twice as good this year,” Metzger said.
The Bruins will need the twins to guide them through the campaign, as the team consists, mostly, of underclassmen.
“We’re going to get better throughout the year because we’re starting five freshmen,” Metzger said. “We were young last year but we seem to be younger this year.”
Those five freshman include Madi Yeomans, Savvy Simo, Torrey Van Winden, Chanti Holroyd and Lily Justine.
Additionally, five players transitioned from indoor court volleyball out onto the sand. Junior Reily Buechler, senior Jordan Anderson, sophomore Zana Muno, Simo and Van Winden all came from coach Michael Sealy’s round-of-eight finishing squad.
Next up for the Bruins is the East Meets West Invitational down in Manhattan Beach on March 11 and 12.
With scheduled matches against No. 2 Florida State and a number of other highly ranked teams such as No .8 Georgia State, No. 10 Louisiana State and No. 11 Florida International, UCLA will have its chance to face off against the nation’s elite.
“I fully expect that we’re going to continue to get better throughout the season and if the team plays the way it did to finish the year we’ll have a good shot at this,” Metzger said.