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UCLA beach volleyball goes undefeated in season-opening tournament with new pairs

Lexy Denaburg extends to receive the ball with her back to the net. The UCLA beach volleyball sophomore paired with senior Lea Monkhouse to begin the 2022 campaign with her third partner in three seasons. (David Rimer/Assistant Photo editor)

beach volleyball

No. 2 UCLA4
No. 7 Stanford1
No. 2 UCLA5
Saint Mary’s0
No. 2 UCLA3
No. 10 Hawai’i2
No. 2 UCLA5
Saint Mary’s0
No. 2 UCLA4
No. 10 Hawai’i1

By Shane Smith

Feb. 28, 2022 1:10 p.m.

This post was updated Feb. 28 at 1:50 p.m.

New pairings led to the same results for the Bruins.

No. 2 UCLA beach volleyball (5-0) began its 2022 season with an undefeated run at the Heineken Duke Kahanamoku Beach Classic in Honolulu, securing victories over multiple top-10 opponents on its way to winning the tournament at Queen’s Beach.

The Bruins opened with a 4-1 win over No. 7 Stanford (2-2) on Friday, in which all five pairings were different from the end of the 2021 season.

“We’re really pleased with it,” said coach Stein Metzger. “Out of 12 players, six of them wore a Bruin uniform for the first time. And on the starting squad, (out of) five pairs – 10 players – four of them were either true freshmen or redshirt freshmen, and they performed really well.”

UCLA continued its run of success Friday with a 5-0 victory over Saint Mary’s (0-4), winning all 10 sets by an average of 7.4 points to maintain its undefeated record against the Gaels.

After playing her first weekend with senior Lea Monkhouse on court one, sophomore Lexy Denaburg said there was a learning curve that comes with playing with a new partner, a process that much of the UCLA roster is working through to start the 2022 season.

“There’s definitely an adjustment period,” Denaburg said. “But honestly, I had so much fun playing with her this weekend. We had some ups and downs, but I think just trying to find our rhythm and getting through the lows is what’s going to help us.”

Monkhouse is Denaburg’s third court partner in three seasons. The sophomore paired with junior Lindsey Sparks for the 2020 campaign and former Bruin Savvy Simo in 2021.

On Saturday, Metzger’s squad picked up where it left off with another top-10 win over the tournament hosts, No. 10 Hawai’i (2-3). UCLA won the first three matches in the 3-2 contest, with redshirt sophomore Jaden Whitmarsh and sophomore Devon Newberry taking a three-set victory on court three to clinch the dual. The duo was awarded the honor of best pair of the tournament, going undefeated across their four matches on court three.

Completing round-robin play with a perfect 3-0 record, the Bruins entered the tournament stage as the top seed. In the semifinal, they once again dispatched Saint Mary’s in straight sets, replicating their earlier 5-0 victory with the new court three pairing of redshirt sophomore Maggie Walters and freshman Katie Hashman.

To top off their nearly perfect run, the Bruins defeated the hosting BeachBows in the tournament final with a score of 4-1, once again winning the first three matches on courts two, three and four. The victory marked seven straight wins for UCLA over Hawai’i.

“I’m so proud of everyone that played because they handled it well,” Denaburg said. “We had a lot of pressure situations that some of the younger players had to play in, and they came through, which was super cool, and it’s super fun.”

By the end of the weekend, the Bruins won 21 out of a possible 25 courts, and several Bruins were awarded key tournament honors. In addition to Whitmarsh and Newberry’s best pair award, sophomore Rileigh Powers nabbed best defender honors for her play alongside junior Abby Van Winkle on court two.

Metzger said Powers’ performance, as well as that of court four’s freshmen Natalie Myszkowski and Sophie Moore, offered a glimpse of what’s to come for the team. The two true freshmen strung together an undefeated collegiate debut, winning all 10 sets by a combined margin of 210-128.

“(The underclassmen’s performance was) a really good sign for our program this year and for the future,” Metzger said.

Despite their undefeated season opener, Denaburg said the Bruins are focused on improving their game in preparation for next weekend’s matchup against No. 1 USC in the Battle for LA.

“We’ve got a long season ahead of us,” Denaburg said. “We can’t get too comfortable because we’re going to get everybody’s best game. We just have to keep staying humble, and the key is playing our game because no matter what, you never know what can happen.”

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Shane Smith | Sports contributor
Smith is currently a contributor on the beach volleyball beat. He was previously a contributor on the men's soccer beat.
Smith is currently a contributor on the beach volleyball beat. He was previously a contributor on the men's soccer beat.
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