For the second consecutive time at Merle Norman Stadium, it came down to the last court.
No. 1 UCLA beach volleyball (6-0) topped No. 2 USC (1-1) 3-2 at Merle Norman Stadium, with junior Lily Justine and senior Sarah Sponcil clinching the win with a 2-0 sweep over their Trojan opponents.
Justine and Sponcil were the final court to finish play, with the other pairs finishing 2-2. The duo took a 12-11 lead in the second set, but won nine of the next 12 points. Justine converted on a cut shot to the ride side to give UCLA its second-ever victory at USC.
Sponcil said she and Justine understood the pressure but felt that steady communication let the Bruins pull away from the Trojans.
“(We were) thinking, ‘Just be patient,’” Sponcil said. “It’s so easy to get caught up in the fact that the pressure is on us. But the more that we stay together and keep communicating, we kind of started to get that edge at the very end.”
Court five put the Bruins on the board first. About to go down a set, sophomore Megan Muret and senior Izzy Carey broke the Trojans’ set point twice and won the first set 22-20.
The two followed that up with a 22-20 win in the second set to earn the Bruins’ first win of the day. Muret said she and Carey knew they would be able to come through for the team and put the Bruins even with their rivals.
“That’s not the first time the other team has had game point against us.” Muret said. “We really tried to stick together and stay confident. We know what we can do and we know that we’re capable of coming back and putting it all together.”
The Bruins’ second win of the night came from court four, where freshmen Abby Van Winkle and Lindsey Sparks came out on top 21-17, 21-17 in their first match as a pair this season.
Van Winkle’s usual partner, senior Zana Muno, was out for the game with an illness. This forced coach Stein Metzger to move sophomore Mac May and junior Savvy Simo from court four to three. They lost in three sets by scores of 21-15, 19-21, 15-12.
Metzger said Sparks stepped up and was part of what he feels is a great freshman class that can lead the Bruins in the upcoming years.
“We have a great freshman class,” Metzger said. “It’s the biggest and probably strongest we’ve ever brought into UCLA. They’ve learned quite a bit over the fall. I’m really excited about the future for this program.”
On court one, seniors Megan and Nicole McNamara dropped their first match of the year, losing to the Trojan pair of Tina Graudina and Abril Bustamante. The twins committed multiple serving errors on the way to a 21-18, 21-16 loss.
Metzger said the McNamara’s game was not up to their normal standard but talked about having patience with his court one duo.
“They were just a little off,” Metzger said. “And they would admit the same thing. Their ball control, their serving, just everything was a bit off. Today wasn’t really their day, but they had a couple spurts where they could have turned it around. I thought it was a good learning experience for them.”