For the first time this season, UCLA finished a weekend undefeated – even in unusual Southern California weather.
The Bruins were drenched from the rain in three of their four matches. But unlike their battle against the wind earlier this season, they were able to get past the poor conditions.
“Playing in the rain is definitely tough (because) the ball gets heavier, it’s hard to see and you’re cold and wet,” said junior Megan McNamara. “But I thought it was a really great experience for our team to have to push through.”
No. 4 UCLA beach volleyball (11-3) defeated No. 9 LSU (6-6) and No. 13 Florida International (6-5) on Saturday and No. 5 Florida State (9-3) and No. 20 TCU (3-8) on Sunday at the East Meets West Challenge in Manhattan Beach, California.
UCLA rolled past LSU with a score of 4-1, winning in straight sets three times. Sophomore Savvy Simo and junior Zana Muno were the only pair that lost, with a score of 21-15 for both sets.
Despite the loss, coach Stein Metzger said the duo was just trying to get back into the flow after Muno’s return from injury.
“We saw them as the team that was going to continue to get better throughout the tournament,” Metzger said. “And that’s exactly what they did … (Simo and Muno) grew as a team and as individuals and I expect them to get even better in the coming weeks.”
Muno didn’t play her first match until seven games into the season because of injury, but the two played indoor together in the fall.
“(Muno) was injured and I’ve been playing with a couple of different people and we’ve been moving through the lineup,” Simo said. “We’ve played both sides, we’ve split blocked, so we kind of have to be well-rounded, and I think for us after a loss, we don’t really let that hit us mentally.”
The Bruins jumped out to a 2-0 lead against the Seminoles but dropped the next two matches. All eyes were on court three when the third set was knotted at 15-15. As Simo and Muno took care of business after cashing in on match point, the rest of the Bruins rushed the court to celebrate the close victory.
“It was nerve-wracking for sure having so many people around and knowing that the game was so close and on us to win,” Simo said. “But I think that’s what volleyball and sports is about, is moments like that and especially coming out on top.”
After dropping their first match on the weekend, the pair bounced back winning their next three, which ended up being UCLA’s deciding matches to clinch each victory.
Simo and Muno took a 3-1 lead for the Bruins during the matchup against Florida International, and their match against TCU took a 3-0 lead for UCLA.
“They’re both really strong players,” McNamara said. “They’re a new partnership this year, so I thought it was really great for them to bounce back quickly after that loss (to LSU). They’ve really come together as a team.”
This tournament was a good test for the Bruins, as it consisted of eight teams – all ranked in the top 20 – and featured the five top teams in the nation.
“(Manhattan Beach) is the premier location and the premier collegiate event on the West Coast during the regular season,” Metzger said. “We want to continue to host this tournament and invite the best teams in the country.”