Elise Zappia said the crowd turnout was the largest she’s ever seen in her four years as a Bruin.
“I think this is the largest team we’ve had at a home game,” the senior said. “You could hear your friends cheering (for) you.”
Family, friends and the Den were in the stands on Senior Day to cheer on No. 1 UCLA beach volleyball’s (26-3) sweep against No. 6 Long Beach State (18-4) and the 3-2 victory over No. 4 USC (17-8).
“I think coming into USC with a sweep under our belt gave us a lot of confidence going in,” said junior Izzy Carey. “We defended our No. 1 ranking and believed we were No. 1 after that.”
The Bruins are the nation’s top team for the first time in program history, winning their 20th and 21st consecutive duals Wednesday afternoon. Against the 49ers, UCLA won all but one match in straight sets before facing their crosstown rivals.
UCLA took a 3-0 lead to clinch the dual win over USC, which included a straight-set victory from court five’s pair of Carey and freshman Megan Muret, the only duo that has won all 21 matches during the Bruins’ dual winning streak.
USC coach Anna Collier swapped her No. 4 and No. 5 pairs for the dual, but for Carey and Muret, facing a pair that would normally play on court four didn’t intimidate them.
“We knew ahead of time that they might do that because they’ve been doing that a bit in the past few games,” Carey said. “(But) I was confident that (we) could go out and win anyways.”
The pair also won 21-12 and 21-15 over Long Beach State. Carey and Muret gave up a 5-0 skid midway through the second set, before ending on a 7-2 run to close out the match.
“(Carey and Muret) epitomize consistency just in the way they go about their daily lives,” said coach Stein Metzger. “They’re such students of the game that they really can take a game plan and execute and I think they showed that today.”
Zappia and freshman Mac May took down Long Beach State 21-16 and 21-17, finishing the match on a high line kill by the senior. The duo would need a third set to defeat the Trojans, but bounced back to win their 15th straight match.
“(Long Beach State is) obviously a really good team and that was a confidence booster for everybody going into USC,” Zappia said.
Zappia, who played for the last time at home, said she hopes to be remembered for her work ethic and how she’s impacted others.
“I hope that people look back and think that I was a really hard worker and I showed up every day,” Zappia said. “I just tried the best I can to lead by example and mentor the other girls and help them find their way.”
Carey played alongside Zappia for two seasons before they were split up this year. She said the senior has been the one to motivate the team all season long.
“(Zappia) has been an amazing leader in the fact that in the past few years she has been telling us that we are the team to win a national championship,” Carey said.
Metzger said Zappia has set the foundation for the program and has been an integral piece to this season’s lineup.
“She’s a trailblazer for this program,” Metzger said. “She’s been instrumental not only in our development skillwise as a team, but also our team culture. Losing her will be a big loss.”