Last year, UCLA beach volleyball was eliminated from the NCAA championship after falling to Florida State 3-1.
2017 was a different year, but it ended the same way.
The No. 4 Seminoles (29-9) ended the No. 2 Bruins’ (30-6) NCAA Tournament dream for the second straight year at Gulf Shores, Alabama, on Saturday. The game even featured the same scoreline.
The Bruins had beaten the Seminoles twice earlier in the year by scores of 3-2 and 4-1, but the latest matchup was so close it could have gone either way, according to coach Stein Metzger.
“They played exceptionally well, better than they played us in the regular season,” Metzger said.
To get to the match against FSU, UCLA defeated No. 7 LSU (27-8) 3-0 and lost to eventual runner-up No. 3 Pepperdine (27-5) 3-1 to put them in the contenders’ bracket of the double-elimination tournament.
Although UCLA dropped three of the first five sets in the matchup against Pepperdine, the team eventually won its opening match. Two of the three games that it won had to be battled out in three sets.
Wins for Pepperdine in courts 2, 4 and 5 sealed the Waves’ victory.
The No. 2 pair of graduate student Kamila Tan and freshman Madi Yeomans also fell in the Bruins’ final game against FSU, as did the No. 1 pair of sophomores Megan and Nicole McNamara. The McNamaras lost their two sets by just two points, and Tan and Yeomans dropped theirs 21-18, 16-21, 15-10.
No. 4 pair of senior Jordan Anderson and sophomore Izzy Carey, were beaten in straight sets 21-18, 21-18.
The wind conditions affected the team’s performance at the tournament, Anderson said. According to her, California does not have as much of a strong wind, which gave the East Coast teams an advantage.
“i think where we lacked in preparation was for the wind. … It was 20 to 25 mph,” Anderson said. “There were just some factors not in our control that made the game swing a little bit more.”
Junior Elise Zappia and freshman Torrey Van Winden gave UCLA its only win and the initial 1-0 lead in the match when they beat their opponents 21-13, 21-14.
Zappia mentioned that the loss to FSU last season in the NCAA championship did weigh on her mind during the game.
“When I was playing my game, that was what I was thinking about,” Zappia said. “I didn’t want to be sent home by Seminoles for the second year in a row.”
She said it was definitely a bummer to fall short, given how great their overall season had been.
Earlier in the season, UCLA became the first team to beat No. 1 and eventual national champions USC (38-1) in Pac-12 program history and posted a school-record 24 straight dual victories.
Metzger commended the girls’ performances at the championship despite the disappointment in the final outcome.
“I’ve never had so much fun losing a match,” Stein said. “I think we played our best this tournament.”
Metzger said the NCAA Tournament was overall a positive experience and a good opportunity for the young team to be in a lot of neck-and-neck battles. UCLA’s starting lineup this year was comprised of 50 percent freshmen.
“It helps them recognize that it takes work all year long to come down and execute on just a couple of points,” Metzger said.