The first point for the Bruins was the quickest one to earn – and it was no surprise.
“They’re the cornerstone of our team,” said coach Stein Metzger of junior Izzy Carey and freshman Megan Muret. “We get to walk into every match almost counting on the fact that we’re 1-0 (already), just because they’ve had so many strong wins against strong teams for us.”
No. 2 UCLA beach volleyball (19-3) nearly swept the nation’s top-ranked team, dominating No. 1 Pepperdine (15-3) with a 4-1 victory. Carey and Muret claimed the first point for the Bruins, winning the match with scores of 21-8 and 21-13.
“Probably the most consistent fives in the country right now,” Metzger said about the duo, who boast a 14-1 record as UCLA’s No. 5 pair.
Following that win, the No. 3 pair junior Zana Muno and sophomore Savvy Simo, won their first set, 21-17. But after the second set was knotted at 12-12, the pair gave up a 9-1 run and dropped the second set 21-13.
“That run was a lot of errors on our side, so we just had to get back to our basics,” Muno said. “Making the easy shots instead of making a lot of high risk shots.”
The junior said they made adjustments defensively. And on the pair’s second match point in the third set, Muno slammed the ball for a cut shot to the left side to get the three-set victory and give the Bruins a 2-0 lead.
“In the third we played consistent,” Muno said. “Setting well and then just keeping the ball on the court. We just have to trust our own defense and that’s what worked well for us.”
Freshman Mac May and senior Elise Zappia put up the third point for UCLA to clinch the dual, as the Bruins defeated a No. 1 team for the second time this season.
The pair fell in the first set 21-16, but didn’t let their mistakes affect the next two sets. They won the second set 21-14, and a block by May on match point secured the third set 16-14.
“We definitely worked on our defense,” May said. “We talked about it, and then changed a few things (like) blocking and positioning, and I think that helped a lot for us to get a lot of defensive plays just so we could turn it around and gain a lot more momentum.”
UCLA posted a 3-0 lead over Pepperdine with still two matches to go. The Waves escaped the sweep after trailing 4-0, snagging a tight three-set win from junior transfer Sarah Sponcil and sophomore Lily Justine.
“It’s really exciting,” May said about taking down the top team. “The confidence going into the rest of the season is very huge in helping us to just know where we are … I think everyone (was) pretty pumped about how we (had) already won (after three matches).”
Juniors Nicole McNamara and Megan McNamara also won for the Bruins, logging a straight-set victory of 21-19 and 21-11 as UCLA extended its win streak to 14.
“I think our team (continues) to be confident no matter what happens,” Metzger said. “Even from the beginning of the year when we took a heavy loss from Hawai’i 0-5, the team never lost confidence.”
UCLA will travel to Miami for the Surf and Turf Invitational this weekend, facing five top-20 teams in a two-day span. Should the Bruins come home maintaining their win streak, UCLA will likely move into the top spot in the rankings.
“We’re playing well at this point in the season,” Metzger said. “We do have some areas that we can improve, no question. I know we’re going to have some tough fought battles out in Florida this weekend.”