No. 2 UCLA beach volleyball (26-3) ended its regular season Saturday on a losing note despite shortly extending its winning streak.
Initially, UCLA defeated Cal Poly (13-20) but eventually lost against No. 1 USC (30-0) by a score of 4-1 Saturday.
The Bruins began the season 2-0 before losing to then-No. 4 Pepperdine and USC. After the pair of losses, the team went on to win 24 consecutive matches that included wins against some of the top-ranked programs across the country.
“We played motivated and inspired,” said coach Stein Metzger. “We just couldn’t be consistent.”
Loss aside, Metzger and his players feel the team is right where it needs to be heading into the Pac-12 tournament and NCAA Beach Volleyball Championship.
“Even though we lost 4-1, the match felt closer as we had them on the ropes,” Metzger said.
UCLA jumped out to a 1-0 lead after senior Jordan Anderson and sophomore Izzy Carey won their match in straight sets 21-13, 21-19.
Freshman pair Chanti Holroyd and Lily Justine lost a tightly contested battle in three sets 21-16, 19-21, 15-9 that tied the match before the Trojans went on to finish the Bruins.
“We were right there but something was missing,” Anderson said. “But I know if we stick with each other, support one another and focus on the small things, we’ll be good moving forward.”
For Anderson and Carey, the dual win over USC capped off a regular season in which they went 17-1 as a pair, their only loss coming against California’s Nicole Anderson and Iya Lindahl, 21-15, 21-18 earlier in the year.
“(Carey) is a quiet person but she’s a loud presence on the court,” Anderson said. “I trust her when we’re on the court, I know she’ll always have my back when I’m in front of the net.”
Anderson originally began her career with UCLA as an indoor volleyball player before making the transition to the sand and teaming up with Carey mid-March against Florida State.
As for USC, there is no doubt in Carey’s mind the team can jump over the hurdle soon enough.
“USC is a great team, but this is not the one we want to win. When we’re locked in and focus on offense, pushing one another, we can pull through and win when it matters,” Carey said.
Winning when it matters is in reference to the upcoming postseason play in which UCLA could possibly meet USC once again.
“I think we are well-positioned. When the team is pressured, when the team is tight, we perform,” Metzger said. “We’ll take the positives from today as this match does nothing for our ranking; today was rather an opportunity to play against top-level competition.”
Metzger and the team will now turn their attention to the Pac-12 tournament that begins Thursday in Arizona, where they’ll possibly match up against the Trojans for a third time before heading to Alabama for the NCAA Tournament in early May.