UCLA beach volleyball gave UCLA athletics its 116th NCAA title – tying the most of any school in the nation.
Now, the athletics department is giving the team something too – new beach volleyball courts.
“We’re just eternally grateful because the timing couldn’t be better,” said coach Stein Metzger. “We’re expanding in terms of the size of our team, … especially with the growth we’ve had in terms of rankings over the last couple of years.”
UCLA’s Sunset Canyon Recreation Center will open a redesigned beach volleyball facility by next season, doubling the number of courts from two to four. The project was introduced before the season started by a donor family who wanted to help the new sport grow.
The UCLA athletics department announced a $1 million donation from UCLA alumni John and Carrie Mapes back in August of 2017, part of which was allocated to the beach volleyball program through an endowment of a student-athlete scholarship, as well as the expanding of the current training facility.
John Mapes was a former walk-on tennis player who graduated in 1990. He also made a $1 million donation back in 2014, which supported two men’s tennis players, a men’s basketball player and a football player.
“In the early days, (UCLA beach volleyball) only had walk-ons, and I think that that was close to (the Mapes’) hearts,” Metzger said. “So he wanted to support the student-athlete experience, especially a team that’s brand new on campus.”
Metzger’s program will be the first women’s team the couple has supported financially.
In just the program’s sixth year, Metzger has led the Bruins to more dual victories than each previous year. UCLA posted a 22-8 record in 2016, then improved to a 30-6 record last season before a 40-4 season this year.
“So (the Mapes) got really excited to get behind (the project),” Metzger said. “What a great way to support it by creating a facility where future generations of athletes and players can enjoy the facility.”
The new courts – which will be known as Mapes Beach – will feature four sand courts realigned to be perpendicular to the current court placement as well as the addition of spectator seating. Ashley Armstrong, associate director of athletics and administration, said she is excited to garner a bigger fan base for the growing sport.
“The program is relatively new in terms of all the other programs we’ve been sponsoring,” Armstrong said. “It’s just greater opportunity to host more teams at home and really to bring people to UCLA.”
The additional courts at Mapes Beach will allow UCLA to host duals – five pair matches – in two rounds instead of three next year. The Bruins will also be able to host triple-headers, in which three teams all compete against one another in a dual.
The Bruins hosted two doubleheaders this season, but they both lasted nearly six hours due to the need for three rounds with only two courts.
“(They were) very long days and it was hard to pack in,” Metzger said. “So the fact that we’re able to expand it and do a dual in two rounds is ground breaking.”
Metzger said more teams will be willing to compete at UCLA because duals will move at a faster pace. But another advantage will be maximizing more drills and sets during UCLA’s practices.
“It’ll also be helpful for practice because we’ll be able to have less (pairs) on a court,” said junior Nicole McNamara. “We’ll get more touches, because, right now, it’s difficult having so many girls and only two courts.”
For now, the program’s Pac-12 title and national championship rings are still setting in. But the Bruins are only graduating one senior from their lineup, and will soon be getting right back to work on the sand.