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Beach volleyball wins both Loyola Marymount matchups, brings win streak to 18

Junior Megan Muret and her partner graduate student Jacqueline Quade were one of two Bruin pairs to win both of their games in No. 1 UCLA beach volleyball’s dual match sweep of No. 5 Loyola Marymount. (Jefferson Alade/Daily Bruin)

Beach Volleyball

No. 5 Loyola Marymount2
No. 1 UCLA3
No. 5 Loyola Marymount1
No. 1 UCLA4

By Bryan Palmero

April 15, 2021 1:50 p.m.

It came down to the final court for the Bruins.

After sophomore Lindsey Sparks misplaced a jump serve that sailed past the back end line, the Lions tied the opening dual at two games apiece with one remaining.

As Bruin players, coaches and personnel crowded the sidelines, described by the commentator as a “bunch of humans,” all eyes were on UCLA’s court five pairing of freshman Rileigh Powers and redshirt freshman Jaden Whitmarsh as they held a two-point lead.

The two teams traded points before the pairing went on a 3-0 run – capped off by a Powers tip – to capture the match 21-19, 21-16 and the dual.

“I mean always, I’m a little bit nervous,” junior Megan Muret said. “But I just totally have full trust in my teammates knowing that they can pull out their games.”

No. 1 UCLA beach volleyball (21-1, 10-0 Pac-12) pulled ahead to beat No. 5 Loyola Marymount (20-4,1-0 WCC) 3-2 in its first match and 4-1 in the second outing of its doubleheader at home Wednesday. The opening match – in which both teams went back-and-forth – marked the second 3-2 match coming down to Powers and Whitmarsh’s play.

Powers and Whitmarsh were also the deciding pair in the team’s 3-2 win over then-No. 3 LSU on April 3. UCLA beat then-No. 19 Stanford and then-No. 2 Florida State each by 3-2 scores earlier this season. While the victory against the Cardinal did not come down to the last court, graduate student Savvy Simo and freshman Lexy Denaburg secured the winning game in the Bruins’ win over the Seminoles.

The Lions stuck by the Bruins throughout both matches and even took a brief lead in the second dual after taking the first sets on court one, three and five.

Coach Stein Metzger said Loyola Marymount’s aggressive serving kept it in the game.

“(Loyola Marymount)’s not the biggest team, so they put a lot of focus on their serving,” Metzger said. “It’s obvious they spend a lot of time practicing a certain serve pattern. … Fortunately, we have scouted ahead of time what they would be doing serving-wise, but they certainly got us in trouble in certain spots.”

UCLA was able to bounce back as the court one’s Simo and Denaburg won their next two sets, and freshman Devon Newberry and Sparks repeated court one’s feat en route to a 4-1 Bruin victory.

Metzger, drawing upon a conversation with his former UCLA volleyball coach Al Scates – who at one point was the winningest NCAA volleyball coach – said these close games come with the territory but are welcomed by his team.

“I went to meet (Scates) after his golf game,” Metzger said. “He said, ‘Listen, you want to be number one. … You get everybody’s best game because you have a target on your back. And that will prepare you when it comes down to the end, when you’re playing for a national championship.’”

After last season’s cancellation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bruins are continuing the pursuit of their third straight national championship in May.

With the win over Loyola Marymount, UCLA has secured victories over three of the four remaining top-five nationally ranked teams. Left in its path is No. 2 USC, who was responsible for the blue and gold’s lone loss on March 4, before the team tore off on its current 18-match winning streak.

The Bruins will have another chance to grab a win over the Trojans this weekend in the Center of Effort Challenge in San Luis Obispo, California.

Despite the rivalry game on the schedule, Metzger pointed out a different priority for the team.

“As we’re vying for a spot in the (tournament), we definitely want to beat the teams other than USC,” Metzger said. “Those are going to be critical for us – those are must-wins.”

UCLA will face off against No. 8 Grand Canyon at 2 p.m. on Friday before rematches against Loyola Marymount, No. 6 Cal Poly and USC.

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Bryan Palmero | Assistant Sports editor
Palmero is currently an assistant Sports editor on the softball, beach volleyball, women's volleyball, men's volleyball and men's golf beats. He was previously a contributor on the beach volleyball and women's volleyball beats.
Palmero is currently an assistant Sports editor on the softball, beach volleyball, women's volleyball, men's volleyball and men's golf beats. He was previously a contributor on the beach volleyball and women's volleyball beats.
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