GULF SHORES, Ala. — All five courts went to three sets – and the dual was decided by a pair that hadn’t gone to three since exactly a month ago.
A block by senior Izzy Carey on court five helped No. 2 seed UCLA beach volleyball (33-3) sweep No. 3 seed Florida State (29-6) 3-0 on Friday afternoon to advance to the winners bracket final of the NCAA championship.
“(Carey and freshman Lindsey Sparks) don’t always have those close matches,” said coach Stein Metzger. “I think it’s a great opportunity to be tested and be able to come through at that point against an FSU team that was playing really well.”
Carey and Sparks won the first set on court five 21-13, but dropped the second 21-18 before coming back to win the third against a Florida State pair who defeated them in their last meeting.
“I had no idea that we were the dual-clinching match either, so I was just staying present,” Carey said. “(Sparks) was really confident in us and that made me stay really confident in us.”
Florida State has knocked UCLA into the elimination bracket in the same round for the past two years.
The Bruins stormed the court in celebration of a win over the team they beat to win last year’s NCAA title – but were whistled off by the referee until the players shook hands.
“To win both matches on day one (of the NCAA championship) is a new feeling,” said senior Megan McNamara. “This is our fourth championship in Gulf Shores, and all three years we lost on day one.”
Juniors Savvy Simo and Madi Yeomans gave UCLA its first dual point, coming back to win the second and third sets after dropping the first.
Yeomans has played just four matches this season prior to Friday, but went 4-0 with Simo last year when Simo’s partner then-junior Zana Muno was out with an injury. Yeomans also stepped into the lineup to help the Bruins win last year’s Pac-12 championship.
“(Yeomans) is one of the strongest people I know in all aspects of life,” Nicole McNamara said. “I have so much confident that she’s going to fill those shoes.”
Sophomore Lea Monkhouse did not compete in her usual court four position due to dehydration. NCAA championship rules disallow her from returning to the lineup this weekend.
The Bruins’ other victory came on court one, where seniors Nicole and Megan McNamara won 19-21, 21-19, 15-7.
UCLA will take on No. 5 seed LSU in the winner’s bracket final Saturday at 9 a.m.