The band played its fight song. The players sang along.
For the first time in program history, the Bruins will play for a national title.
No. 1-seeded UCLA beach volleyball (39-4) survived No. 3-seeded Hawaii (37-5) with a 3-2 victory to advance to the NCAA championship dual.
On court three, sophomore Savvy Simo and junior Zana Muno avoided a straight-set loss by snagging set two. The pair, however, failed to reach dual point in the third set, falling 15-12 as Hawai’i evened up the dual at 2-2.
It all came down to the third set on court three.
With an 11-8 lead over the SandBows, each pair sided out the rest of the way. On dual point, junior transfer Sarah Sponcil launched a hit to the right side that was unreturnable, lifting UCLA to its first ever championship dual appearance.
UCLA’s No. 2 pair of Sponcil and sophomore Lily Justine took the first set 21-19. The duo had three opportunities on dual point in the second set to advance to the finals, but Hawai’i’s Lea Monkhouse slammed back-to-back kills and forced a third set.
Although the SandBows only won the first set on two of the five courts, Hawai’i put up the first point to lead 1-0 with a defeat of senior Elise Zappia and freshman Mac May on court four 21-16 and 21-16.
In a matter of seconds, UCLA tied up the dual on court five. Junior Izzy Carey and freshman Megan Muret dominated 21-14 and 21-12. Hawai’i’s Hannah Zalopany’s attack into the net and then out of bounds knotted the dual at 1-1.
On court one, juniors Nicole and Megan McNamara ran low-back sets to keep Hawai’i’s 6-foot-3 Emily Maglio moving. Megan McNamara’s left-side kill on match point put the Bruins up 2-1. The McNamaras are the only No. 1 pair to win all five matches of the tournament in straight sets.
Hawai’i rode a school-record 32-dual win streak before suffering back-to-back losses to Florida State on Saturday and now UCLA.
Matchups on all five courts were the first meeting for all pairs, despite the three dual meetings this season. Hawai’i handed UCLA its only 5-0 loss this season on the SandBows’ home courts at the beginning of the season.
UCLA will advance to face No. 4-seeded Florida State (33-6) in the NCAA championship. The Seminoles sent the Bruins home from the tournament the past two years. UCLA fell to Florida State in the second round of the double-elimination tournament Friday, but will have the opportunity to bounce back.