The Bruins completed their third tournament sweep of the season – this time beating four top-20 teams.
No. 1 UCLA beach volleyball (14-0, 1-0 Pac-12) hosted the East Meets West Invitational at the Manhattan Beach Pier, where it defeated No. 6 LSU (8-4, 4-2 CCSA) 4-1, No. 9 FIU (5-4, 1-0 Conference USA) 4-1, No. 4 Florida State (11-4, 5-1 CCSA) 4-1 and No. 19 TCU (5-7, 2-1 CCSA) 5-0.
“Often times when you win, you don’t take a deep look into where we can get better and what we can improve on – that’s our challenge right now,” said coach Stein Metzger. “We finally have a week to get back to basics and take a look at what kind of adjustments we want to make.”
Seniors Nicole and Megan McNamara were the first to finish their straight-set wins in every match. The duo is off to an 11-1 record on court one, with its only loss coming against No. 2 USC’s Abril Bustamante and Tina Graudina on Feb. 27.
Nicole McNamara said the pair – which is the shortest on court one in the nation – has been working on ways to beat taller opponents. No other Bruin pair went 4-0 over the weekend.
“We’ve been focusing a lot on passing closer to the net and speeding up our offense just to throw off some of the bigger blockers that we face,” Nicole McNamara said.
The reigning AVCA/CollegeBeachVB.com National Pair of the Week – senior Sarah Sponcil and junior Lily Justine – suffered its first loss of the season to FIU’s Federica Frasca and Margherita Bianchin 21-8, 21-17. The latter pair has consistently played on court one but was moved down to court two to face UCLA.
Junior Savvy Simo and sophomore Lea Monkhouse dropped two matches – one on court three against LSU, and one on their usual court four to Florida State – bringing them to a 4-2 record as a pair.
“We’ve learned how to communicate with each other better and what kind of sets the other one likes,” Monkhouse said. “(Simo) is a very different player than me – she’s more power and I’m a little more shooty. (But) we made some unforced errors and we had a bit of passing trouble too.”
The lineup rotations Saturday included the Bruin’s first all-freshman pair this season, with Abby Van Winkle and Lindsey Sparks defeating LSU’s Taryn Kloth and Maddie Ligon 21-18, 21-17 in the first match of the weekend.
But then Sparks dropped back down to court five to play with senior Izzy Carey – who won the first match in three sets with sophomore Megan Muret – for the remaining matches.
“We’re just trying to overturn every possible stone to see what’s going to make us the strongest in the fours and fives, and I think that’s a strength of our team,” Metzger said. “We’re awfully hard to beat in the fours and fives – and if we can win in both those spots, then we only have to find one win in the ones through threes.”
Van Winkle returned to court three alongside senior Zana Muno, and the pair was the last to finish this weekend in a three-set match with TCU’s Molly Scheel and Taylor Bradley.
Van Winkle stepped to the service line for match point and hit an ace for the 17-21, 21-17, 15-8 win – improving the pair’s record to 12-0.
“I like having (Muno) playing full-time defense for the threes, and that’s why she’s with (Van Winkle),” Metzger said. “You see her in the backcourt – she’s a wizard on defense – so if we can have her doing that 100 percent of the time, that’s going to pay off.”
UCLA will face No. 3 Pepperdine for the third and final time of the regular season Saturday.