UCLA sand volleyball faces LMU for third time this season
April 3, 2013 12:50 a.m.
With a team that’s existed for less than a month, it’s hard to say any opponent is familiar. But for the sand volleyball team, Loyola Marymount is as close as it gets. The teams met twice in March, with one of those meetings resulting in the Bruins’ only win.
The Bruin squad that the Lions will face at Annenberg Beach today, however, will be a very different team than they were a month ago. Coach Stein Metzger said it’s a product of an increased understanding of collegiate play as well as rearranged partner teams.
“It’s challenging but it’s really rewarding,” said freshman Rachel Inouye, regarding the changing pairings. “You have to be really flexible and adjust to whoever you’re put with, depending on what their strengths and weaknesses are.”
Inouye, along with fellow freshman Maddy Klineman, took the team’s first match victory against LMU earlier this season, but both players expressed excitement at the possibility of trying out different partner combinations with different skill sets.
“Typically, we pair a bigger hitter or blocking player with a smaller ball control player, but both (freshman) Karly (Drolson) and I are 5-(foot)-6,” Inouye said of her new partner. “We think we can have an advantage over a lot of teams with our ball control to target the bigger players.”
Players said that, particularly with the new pairings that can defy the conventional roles, they’ve learned they have to be comfortable with all parts of the game.
“It’s interesting because you have a small defender behind your big blocker but they have to do a lot of the hitting, so they’re really well-rounded,” Klineman said. “(Blockers) are usually the ones getting set, but now we have to be ready for anything.”
With such constant teamwork, Metzger said complementary personalities can be as important to success as complementary playing styles. For now, players are still deciding what style of teamwork works best for them.
“(This week), I’ve been paired up with (sophomore) Megan Moenoa, and our different personalties worked really well,” Klineman said. “I’m more quiet and steady and she’s more assertive on the court. She gives me direction and I know she’s always there.”
Although Metzger said no pairings are set in stone yet, he also said that consistently playing with the same partner for a long period of time is ultimately vital for the team’s success.
As the team heads toward the larger tournaments, pairings are likely to settle down, but, for now, many duos are as unfamiliar to each other as to the new opponents they are facing, and the search for the perfect combination continues.
“Instead of a team dynamic, it’s more like a marriage,” Metzger said. “Every play involves you and that other person, so you have a lot of moments, whether you’re frustrated or excited, with that person. It’s one of the special things about this sport.”