The celebration of last year’s national title is over.
“The takeaway from last year was a sense of confidence – that we can do this,” said coach Stein Metzger. “However, this is a totally new team, and we haven’t accomplished anything but one win.”
No. 1 UCLA beach volleyball (1-0) cruised past No. 6 Cal Poly (0-1) with a 5-0 win in its season opener at home Thursday morning. The Bruins – who won their first-ever NCAA championship in 2018 – received 27-of-30 first-place votes in the AVCA Collegiate Beach Volleyball preseason poll.
“(Today) was a great test because Cal Poly is a team on the rise,” Metzger said. “Their 1s and 2s are some of the best in the country, so I feel really good about our performance first day out.”
Junior Savvy Simo and sophomore Mac May gave UCLA its first point with a 21-14, 21-9 win over Cal Poly’s Jayelin Lombard and Elenore Johnssen on court four. May’s high line kill scraped Lombard’s hands, but eventually gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead.
Simo and May – who played the indoor volleyball season together – were one of two pairs that Metzger switched up.
“The reason I like (Simo) with (May) is that because (Simo) is great in transition,” Metzger said. “She digs really well, and she can put the ball away in transition. So when she plays with (May), she gets to play defense full time instead of half the time.”
Last season, Simo primarily played alongside senior Zana Muno while May partnered with the graduated Elise Zappia. But Simo said she likes the chemistry in the new duo.
“We’re great friends, so we communicate really well,” Simo said. “We’re pepper partners for indoor, so we know our styles of play so it makes it easier to be a team with her.”
Muno paired up with Abby Van Winkle – who was the only freshman that earned a spot in the lineup – on court three. The tandem dropped a close first set that saw seven ties, but bounced back to win the second and third 21-17, 15-10 to put the Bruins up 2-0.
Senior Izzy Carey and sophomore Megan Muret – who set a program-record 28 consecutive dual match victories on court five last season – returned as UCLA’s No. 5 pair again and won 21-16, 21-15 to clinch the dual victory.
“It’s really exciting that we get to play together again,” Carey said. “We’re very mentally steady together. People don’t ever just serve one of us. … So we do a very good job of bringing each other up.”
On court one, seniors Nicole and Megan McNamara took the first set 21-16, but trailed for the entire second set before taking a 20-19 lead. The sisters went on to win the set 24-22.
Senior Sarah Sponcil and junior Lily Justine took the sand last on court two. The second-year duo trailed by as many as seven in the first set, and eventually fell 21-17.
Even though UCLA had already clinched, Sponcil and Justine fought back to win the next two sets 21-9 and 15-13 and complete the sweep.
“(Cal Poly) put together a really nice game plan against (Sponcil) and (Justine),” Metzger said. “So to see them (make adjustments) and come away with the win is a positive sign.”
The Bruins will travel to Hawaii on Thursday night and compete in the Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Beach Classic this weekend. UCLA – which went a program-record 40-4 last season – had its only 5-0 loss at Hawai’i, where it had to battle windy conditions.
“We definitely put in a lot of good work in the wind last year and (the offseason) this year,” Carey said. “We’ll not only be more physically prepared, but more mentally prepared this time.”