UCLA beach volleyball defeats LSU, Florida State in 4 back-to-back wins
Graduate student Savvy Simo and No. 4 UCLA beach volleyball have the chance to win a third consecutive national championship this season, and the Bruins were able to take down two top-three teams in the country this weekend at Mapes Beach. (Christine Kao/Daily Bruin staff)
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By Jeffrey Fenn
April 5, 2021 1:12 p.m.
The Bruins went in against two top-three teams and came out undefeated.
No. 4 UCLA beach volleyball (15-1, 6-0 Pac-12) extended its win streak to 12, defeating No. 3 LSU (17-5, 4-1 CCSA) and No. 2 Florida State (22-3, 13-0 CCSA) twice each at Mapes Beach on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
Coach Stein Metzger said he was proud of the Bruins’ performance and how they continued to battle throughout all their matches, as they have not lost since March 4.
“I feel great about getting four W’s, I think our team showed a lot of heart,” Metzger said. “I saw that we stayed resilient and I think we sided out well.”
After the Bruins won both matches Saturday and the first match Sunday, the resilience Metzger mentioned perhaps came into play as they went down 0-2 to start the second match against the Seminoles. The two-time defending national champions went on to win the last three matches, however, defeating the Seminoles by a score of 3-2.
The match and the reverse sweep were clinched on court one by graduate student Savvy Simo and freshman Lexy Denaburg with scores of 21-14, 20-22 and 15-8.
Simo emphasized how appreciative she was of Denaburg and how well she said the team performed against what she called some of the toughest opponents in the country.
“I just learned a lot about this team and how great of a chance we have to (win the national championship) again,” Simo said. “We came in at the end and pulled it out. I am so grateful for my partnership with Lexy. It is such a supportive partnership with so much communication and so much trust.”
Simo and Denaburg had started the weekend off with two losses after they were defeated by the Tiger duo of Taryn Kloth and Kristen Nuss by scores of 14-21, 25-23 and 25-27, and then 22-24 and 14-21.
Simo referred to Kloth and Nuss as one of the best pairings in the country, but said she was proud of how hard Denaburg and herself battled and said she knows they will each take a lot from those matches going forward.
“That pair is arguably the number one pair in the country, they are incredible,” Simo said. “We didn’t get smoked by them, we were right there with them. We knew win or lose it was going to be a learning experience for us, and we were only going to get better after this weekend.”
The Bruins were able to pick Denaburg and Simo up by defeating the Tigers in both matches by scores of 4-1 and 3-2. Both wins were clinched on court five by redshirt freshman Jaden Whitmarsh and freshman Rileigh Powers by scores of 21-18, 17-21 and 15-10, and then 21-19, 12-21 and 15-13.
“It was an incredible weekend for our team. I think it was needed to build our confidence and prove to us that we can win these types of games,” Whitmarsh said. “We knew each match was going to be a battle, and having that mentality really helped us clutch up in the end.”
Whitmarsh and Powers finished the weekend a perfect 4-0 on court five, and freshman Devon Newberry and sophomore Lindsey Sparks followed with a 4-0 record on court three. Sophomore Abby Van Winkle and junior Lea Monkhouse played on court two throughout the weekend and finished with a 1-3 record. On court four, graduate student Jacqueline Quade and junior Megan Muret finished the weekend with a 3-1 record.
The wins over the CCSA opponents prolonged UCLA’s undefeated record at Mapes Beach dating back to its opening last season, as its only loss this year came to No. 1 USC on the road.
With the season winding down and a third straight national championship for the taking, Metzger said the Bruins need to make sure to stay healthy and be careful of COVID-19 issues that could prevent them from achieving the mark for a third consecutive time.
“We had a couple slip-ups early in the season that caused us to change our pairings,” Metzger said. “We need to continue to be vigilant in terms of rehab and be careful around COVID protocols so we are at full strength the rest of the season.”
UCLA will return to the sand this weekend for the Pac-12 North Tournament, taking on three conference opponents in Arizona.