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UCLA beach volleyball clinches Pac-12 championship title after 2 victories over USC

Junior Lea Monkhouse (pictured) and her partner freshman Devon Newberry secured the Bruins’ first point in the Pac-12 tournament final before No. 2 seed UCLA beach volleyball ultimately won the conference title against No. 1 seed USC. (David Rimer/Daily Bruin staff)

Beach Volleyball

No. 1 seed USC 2
No. 2 seed UCLA3
No. 1 seed USC1
No. 2 seed UCLA3

By Paul Diamantopoulos and Jeffrey Fenn

May 1, 2021 6:18 p.m.

This post was updated May 2 at 11:14 p.m.

The Bruins came into Saturday 0-3 on the season against their crosstown rivals. They left Mapes Beach as conference champions.

No. 2 seed UCLA (28-3, 10-0 Pac-12) eked out a 3-2 victory over USC (26-4) at the Pac-12 beach volleyball championships, staving off a 3-1 defeat before giving the Bruins and coach Stein Metzger their first conference title since 2018.

“We played an aggressive brand of serving, and we’ve been talking a lot about the preparation before the serve-receive,” Metzger said. “We proved that we can be a consistently great team and this is an absolute confidence builder.”

UCLA got off to a slow start, as both court two and court four dropped their first sets against the Trojans. Freshman Devon Newberry and junior Lea Monkhouse bounced back in the second set on court two, however, capitalizing on an early lead and taking the set by a score of 21-12.

Junior Megan Muret and graduate student Jacqueline Quade fell in a back-and-forth second set on court four, ultimately conceding the first point of the match to USC with a scoreline of 21-6 and 21-16.

With the Bruins potentially going down 2-0, Newberry and Monkhouse jumped out to a 6-2 lead in the third set on court two. This lead would dwindle to 11-11 with a string of errors from the blue and gold, but Newberry would secure the first point for UCLA with a drop shot on their second match point.

The Bruins would have similar starts on courts one and three, with graduate student Savvy Simo and freshman Lexy Denaburg losing a close first set 21-19 to the Trojans, while sophomores Lindsey Sparks and Abby Van Winkle fell 21-11.

Denaburg and Simo would lose a close second set on court one by a score of 21-17, bringing the match score to 2-1 in favor of the Trojans. The Bruins responded quickly in the second set on court three as Van Winkle and Sparks rebounded with a 21-15 .

“Our main goal was to come out aggressive,” Sparks said. “They kind of beat us down in the first set, but we were just going to go for it and be patient in sticking with our game plan.”  

This patience would be crucial as the fate of court three decided the outcome of the match, as Van Winkle and Sparks pulled ahead to a 10-7 lead and the Trojans called for a timeout. Van Winkle and Sparks would hold onto this lead and bring the Bruins even with the Trojans in the match score 2-2 with their 15-11 victory in the third set.

The sole UCLA pair to win their first set, redshirt freshman Jaden Whitmarsh and freshman Rileigh Powers closed out the opening frame at 21-17 over USC.

As so many other matches have this season, the fate of UCLA’s Pac-12 championship came down to the result on court five. Whitmarsh and Powers had the match locked at 18-18, but had to save two set points before a championship-clinching block by Powers secured the second set 23-21.

In these close moments, Whitmarsh spoke on how the coaches have built up the partnership’s mental approach and habits for the postseason.

“We always emphasize staying together,” Whitmarsh said. “The biggest thing for us is just staying cool, calm, collected and having the next-point mentality.”

The Pac-12 champion Bruins will await seeding for the NCAA tournament, which will take place May 7-9 in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

Winner’s bracket final victory

For the first time all year, the Bruins defeated their crosstown rival.

No. 2 seed UCLA beach volleyball (28-3, 10-0 Pac-12) took down No. 1 seed USC (26-4) by a score of 3-1 to open its Saturday at Mapes Beach. This was the first victory of the year for the Bruins against the Trojans after previously starting the season series 0-3.

With the win, UCLA took the winner’s bracket final and secured a spot in the Pac-12 championship final, during which it would take home the conference championship.

Newberry and Monkhouse got the Bruins on the board first, with a 21-15, 21-16 victory on court two. Muret and Quade would then put UCLA up 2-0 after defeating their Trojan counterparts 21-17, 22-20 on court four.

USC scored its only points of the match when its first court duo of Tina Graudina and Megan Kraft defeated Simo and Denaburg 21-11, 21-16. This match comes two weeks after Simo and Denaburg defeated Graudina and Kraft in San Luis Obispo, California, in straight sets 33-31, 21-16.

UCLA clinched the match victory on court five when Whitmarsh and Powers defeated the Trojans’ Audrey and Nicole Nourse on court five 21-18, 21-16.

Van Winkle and Sparks were in the second set of their match – 21-17, 19-18 – when it was called because the Bruins had clinched the match victory.

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Paul Diamantopoulos | Sports contributor
Diamantopoulos is currently a Sports contributor on the beach volleyball beat.
Diamantopoulos is currently a Sports contributor on the beach volleyball beat.
Jeffrey Fenn | Sports contributor
Fenn is currently a Sports contributor on the beach volleyball and men's and women's golf beats.
Fenn is currently a Sports contributor on the beach volleyball and men's and women's golf beats.
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