The Bruins couldn’t hold on to their perfect record any longer.
No. 1 UCLA beach volleyball (26-1) posted wins against Washington (6-10), No. 12 California (16-5) and No. 19 Stanford (9-13) – but lost its first match of the season to No. 2 USC (20-4) 3-2 at the Pac-12 North Tournament on Sunday.
“In a sense, we’ve been wondering when somebody would challenge us like this and give us our first loss so we could take the opportunity to take a deep look at how we get better,” said coach Stein Metzger. “It’s a lot easier to make adjustments and to learn from a loss than from a win and it couldn’t be better timing because we go into a two-week period where we don’t have any competition and we get to train.”
Courts one and two played first in Sunday’s match with the Trojans – and both Bruin pairs fell short.
Seniors Nicole and Megan McNamara lost 21-16, 21-11 to USC’s Abril Bustamante and Tina Graudina on court one, running a 1-2 record against the Trojan pair this season.
“They’re tall and very physical, so we always know that we’re going to have a battle when we play against them,” Nicole McNamara said. “We were just off this morning and that’s the type of team that we can’t be off when we play against them because they’ll make us pay for it.”
UCLA’s victories on courts four and five tied the dual at 2-2.
The dual was decided in a three-set battle on court three, where senior Zana Muno and freshman Abby Van Winkle fell 21-16, won 21-10, and lost 15-13 to Haley Hallgren and Alexandra Poletto.
“After playing (USC), they definitely went out of my comfort zone and did things we were not expecting,” Van Winkle said. “So I think practicing and getting more comfortable with certain plays will help us.”
Muno and Van Winkle – who were UCLA’s only undefeated pair prior to this weekend – went just 1-3 in the tournament.
Metzger said the Bruins have been consistent in their fours and fives, which makes them hard to beat. However, he said the Trojans were able to do it this weekend by taking all three of the other courts.
“(USC)’s top three flights are quite good as ours are, so in any one of those you could call it a coin flip depending on the day,” Metzger said. “Where we’re great is in the fours and fives. Though USC can beat us, they really have to line it up in those three spots on a given day, which is a tall order, but definitely doable.”
The Bruins posted three wins in the tournament, including a 5-0 win over the Huskies, and two 4-1 wins over the Golden Bears and the Cardinal.
The match against Washington was UCLA’s 15th sweep of the season and marked Nicole McNamara’s 100th career victory.
Despite UCLA dropping its first dual of the season, Nicole McNamara said the loss can benefit the team.
“I think that it’s not the worst thing that our team gets a loss under our belt,” Nicole McNamara said. “It would have been a lot of pressure going into postseason undefeated – anything can happen in the postseason. Now that we’ve experienced a loss, it will motivate us even more.”