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Dual match results in win and loss for beach volleyball, breaks undefeated streak

Just like the rest of No. 4 UCLA beach volleyball on Thursday, redshirt sophomore Cami Sanchez won her first game of the dual match but dropped the second. (Ella Barnes/Daily Bruin)

Beach Volleyball

No. 4 UCLA5
No. 6 Cal Poly0
No. 4 UCLA0
No. 3 USC5

By Paul Diamantopoulos

March 5, 2021 7:02 p.m.

In their first away match of the season, the Bruins saw an early-season test against top-six competition.

No. 4 UCLA beach volleyball (3-1, 2-0 Pac-12) took down No. 6 Cal Poly (3-3) but fell to No. 3 USC (4-0) on Thursday.

Playing at Merle Norman Stadium, the Trojans’ home venue, the Bruins got out to a victorious start in their first match against the Mustangs, sweeping all five courts in straight sets.

“That was a very important match for us,” said coach Stein Metzger. “For NCAA’s, they take two teams from the West … so it was critical that we came out focused on Cal Poly and that was the one we needed to win.”

UCLA had a perfect start, taking care of business on the first courts to play, courts five and four, respectively. The winning continued on the remaining courts, as the pairing of sophomore Lindsey Sparks and freshman Devon Newberry were able to clinch the match on court two.

After defeating the Mustangs, the Bruins faced off against their crosstown rivals in their second dual match of the day. UCLA put its three-match winning streak against the Trojans on the line and came short of starting the season 4-0.

The Bruins were swept 5-0 by USC, despite the games on two courts reaching a third set.

Metzger said the biggest difference in Thursday’s second result was how well USC served and controlled its pass game.

“They won the serve (and) pass battle,” Metzger said. “Anytime somebody does that better than us, when we expect to be the team with great ball control, we want to go back to practice to improve (on) that.”

Metzger’s statements were echoed by redshirt sophomore Cami Sanchez, who partnered with junior Lea Monkhouse to push court four to a third set.

Sanchez also said that as a pair – and entire team – the Bruins need to improve their passing and serving game.

“We’re just gonna use (the loss) to be motivated and keep working hard,” Sanchez said. “Having a loss this early in the season is 100% gonna make us better.”

Sanchez said the Bruins have title aspirations and will use this early defeat as fuel for their next showdown against the Trojans, which is set to occur in Arizona during the Pac-12 South Tournament.

The Bruins were without sophomore Abby Van Winkle, who spent the entire season last year on court one with graduate student Savvy Simo, but Metzger said her return is imminent.

“We missed (Van Winkle) for sure … she’s a great player and a big part of our team,” Metzger said. “She’s now cleared to play matches and she’ll get an opportunity on Saturday.”

With Van Winkle rejoining the lineup, she could reunite as a partner with Simo, as the pair went 13-2 on court one last season.

Besides her play, Van Winkle’s return could be instrumental in shifting the lineup to bring back pairings with previous success. An example would be a move to court two for freshman Lexy Denaburg, who combined with Sparks for a 10-3 record in the previous season.

These potential changes could be on full display Saturday, as UCLA will take on No. 8 California on home sand.

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Paul Diamantopoulos | Sports contributor
Diamantopoulos is currently a Sports contributor on the men's tennis beat. He was previously a contributor on the beach volleyball beat.
Diamantopoulos is currently a Sports contributor on the men's tennis beat. He was previously a contributor on the beach volleyball beat.
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