Bruins remain undefeated on the sand, crush Waves third time this season
Junior Lily Justine logged back-to-back blocks in the second set, helping her and senior Sarah Sponcil to a straight-set victory. UCLA beach volleyball swept Pepperdine and remained undefeated on the season. (Alice Naland/Daily Bruin)
March 16, 2019 2:20 pm
This post was updated March 16 at 10:27 p.m.
The Bruins did it again.
No. 1 UCLA beach volleyball (15-0) defeated No. 5 Pepperdine (11-5) for the third time this season, earning its second 5-0 sweep over the Waves. The Bruins have not dropped a set in their last two meetings.
“We are fully developed as a program in terms of our program style, strategy, ability to make adjustments and overall volleyball IQ – all of that mainly has to do with the age of the athletes,” said coach Stein Metzger. “Some of our first recruiting classes are now seniors and juniors, so they have the experience we need now.”
UCLA scored early with a win on court four, where junior Savvy Simo and sophomore Lea Monkhouse beat Nikki Lyons and Maddie Dilfer 21-13, 21-18. The pair is now 7-2 on the season.
Senior Sarah Sponcil and junior Lily Justine faced the Waves’ Heidi Dyer and Gigi Hernandez on court two. The Bruins led by two points before stringing together an 8-3 run to take the first set.
Metzger said the plan was to serve to 6-foot-2-inch Dyer in order to prevent her from hitting at the net.
“Our serving strategy was to make her move because she’s taller and we have deep sand here,” Metzger said. “I think that really caused some challenges for her and she ended up being more of a shooter than a hitter.”
Justine battled Dyer – when the latter did get opportunities to come to the net – despite being 3 inches shorter. Justine came out with back-to-back blocks early in the second set.
“I think we were just working on reading and taking our own spaces of the court and looking for any options to create weird plays – and at that point I was ready for something to come back over so I got some lucky blocks.”
The pairs traded points until UCLA pulled out the two-set win 21-14, 22-20, posting the second dual point for the Bruins. To clinch the dual, seniors Nicole McNamara and Megan McNamara won 21-13, 21-18 on court one over Deahna Kraft and Brook Bauer.
Senior Zana Muno and freshman Abby Van Winkle got off to an early 20-16 lead on court three, but conceded four consecutive points to Alexis Filippone and Skylar Caputo – leaving the first set locked at 20.
UCLA fought its way to a 28-26 extended-set win in the first, but found itself down 17-12 in the second. The pair went on a 5-0 run to tie the set, and continued its comeback to secure the straight-set victory 21-19 on a Van Winkle ace that brushed the tape.
The win preserved Muno and Van Winkle’s perfect 14-0 record.
“I think we’ve gelled now that we’ve had a lot of practice together because we were changing up the lineup a lot in the beginning,” Van Winkle said. “We’re connecting with setting mostly – she’s setting me a little lower which has been helping.”
Senior Izzy Carey and freshman Lindsey Sparks took court five with a 4-0 Bruin lead in the dual. The pair completed the sweep with a 21-16, 21-10 win over Simone Priebe and Katie Gavin.
The victory marked Carey’s 102nd win, leaving her tied with former Bruin Elise Zappia – Carey’s partner in the 2017 season – for the most wins in program history. The senior is one of just two Bruins with a 15-0 record this far into the season.
“(Carey) is probably the most disciplined player on the team,” Metzger said. “She also makes exceptionally good choices. As a blocker, she’s not the most physical presence at the net, but in her position in the fives, she’s downright spectacular in terms of her ability to be consistent.”
The Bruins will have a 10-day break before hosting Oregon at Ocean Park Beach in Santa Monica.