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Beach volleyball advances to championship round against USC in NCAA tournament

Sophomores Lindsey Sparks (pictured) and Abby Van Winkle secured the first point for No. 1 seed UCLA beach volleyball in its 3-0 semifinal win over No. 5 seed Loyola Marymount. (Christine Kao/Daily Bruin staff)

Beach Volleyball


No. 5 seed Loyola Marymount0
No. 1 seed UCLA3

By Michael Waldman

May 9, 2021 9:14 a.m.

Losing to the Lions by a score of 3-2 on Friday, the Bruins could flip a court and hold all others to set up a national championship rematch against their crosstown rivals. 

This time, the two-time defending national champions ended the contest without a loss on any court. 

No. 1 seed UCLA beach volleyball defeated No. 5 seed Loyola Marymount by a score of 3-0 in Gulf Shores, Alabama, on Sunday, setting up a 2019 national championship dual rematch against No. 2 seed USC. The Bruins were knocked onto the elimination bracket by the Lions on Friday, and a win against the Trojans can deliver the 120th national championship in UCLA history.

Sophomores Lindsey Sparks and Abby Van Winkle held the third court through the opening set, battling through the wind and service errors to take a 21-17 win over the West Coast Conference Pair of the Year in Jessie Prichard and Savannah Slattery.

Even at 18 points apiece late in the second set, a Van Winkle finish sealed a three-point finishing run, giving the Bruins a 1-0 lead. With the victory, the pairing – who played together as teens – tied the record for the most wins in an NCAA tournament for a duo.

The court five pairing of freshman Rileigh Powers and redshirt freshman Jaden Whitmarsh had decided four of the last five duals entering Sunday – including the Pac-12 championship final and the Bruins’ loss Friday to the Lions – but were one of the first two courts to take the sand along with court three. 

Their opening set was even through 20 points, and the pair of underclassmen flipped the flight they lost Friday with a 21-16 first frame win sealed by a Powers attack. UCLA then jumped out to an 11-5 lead in the second set, securing a flip with a 21-17 victory under a minute after court three’s win and providing the blue and gold with a 2-0 lead.

Needing just one more point to clinch the dual, courts one, two and four took the sand next.

The Bruins were behind on the first two courts, with graduate student Savvy Simo and freshman Lexy Denaburg trailing 7-3 on the top flight while junior Lea Monkhouse and freshman Devon Newberry had an 8-2 deficit. 

Simo and Denaburg ended the set on a 19-11 comeback run, sealing the period with a side out, while Monkhouse and Newberry’s 22-20 loss gave the Bruins their first dropped set of the day. The court two pair was down 17-12 when the match was eventually suspended with a win in hand.

The first court carried its momentum into the second frame, taking a 7-1 lead over Iya Lindahl and Megan Rice. Simo and Denaburg then grabbed a 21-12 second set victory to put UCLA in the final with a 3-0 win.

Junior Megan Muret and graduate student Jacqueline Quade, who fell Friday by a combined score of 42-24, won 10 of the first 13 points on the fours. The fourth pair took the opening frame 21-15 but were trailing the second set 20-16 when their court was truncated.

The Bruins surrendered all three of their regular-season losses to the Trojans, but two victories over USC in the Pac-12 championship put the season series at 3-2. 

And after a 3-0 sweep of its crosstown rivals in the 2019 final, UCLA can secure its third-consecutive national title starting at 10:30 a.m. PT.

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Michael Waldman | Sports senior staff
Waldman is currently a Sports senior staff writer. He was previously an assistant Sports editor for the men's volleyball, women's volleyball, track and field, beach volleyball and men's soccer beats. Waldman was also a reporter on the women's basketball and beach volleyball beats. He is also a political science major at UCLA from Alameda, CA.
Waldman is currently a Sports senior staff writer. He was previously an assistant Sports editor for the men's volleyball, women's volleyball, track and field, beach volleyball and men's soccer beats. Waldman was also a reporter on the women's basketball and beach volleyball beats. He is also a political science major at UCLA from Alameda, CA.
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