UCLA beach volleyball leaves windy March to May tournament with undefeated record
Sophomore Lexy Denaburg attempts a serve. Denaburg went 5-1 on court one with junior Abby Van Winkle at the March to May tournament. (Jenny Xu/Daily Bruin)
|Then-No. 11 Florida Atlantic||0|
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|No. 4 Florida State||2|
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|No. 13 Georgia State||2|
|No. 1 UCLA||3|
|Then-No. 20 Tulane||1|
|No. 1 UCLA||4|
|No. 1 UCLA||5|
|Then-No. 5 LSU||1|
|No. 1 UCLA||4|
March 25, 2022 7:45 p.m.
This post was updated March 25 at 8:00 p.m.
The Bruins weathered the storm in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
Facing up to 30 mph gusts, No. 1 UCLA beach volleyball (15-0) competed at the March to May event from Friday to Sunday, going undefeated through six duals at the national championship site in Alabama. The tournament featured a weather delay because of the wind.
“We got a lot of wind, we got a lot of change in wind,” said coach Stein Metzger. “(Gulf Shores) was a great opportunity for us to get better in the wind.”
The blue and gold began its slate with victories over then-No. 11 Florida Atlantic and No. 4 Florida State on Friday followed by triumphs against No. 13 Georgia State and then-No. 20 Tulane on Saturday. UCLA closed off the weekend with wins over UAB and then-No. 5 LSU on Sunday.
However, before the tournament, east, west and south winds affected playing conditions. After a delay paused play for over four hours Friday, the Bruins eventually took a shortened 3-0 victory secured by a three-set tiebreaker win from court one’s sophomore Lexy Denaburg and junior Abby Van Winkle.
Denaburg said the experience of playing at Gulf Shores through inclement weather gave her team much-needed preparation for the season’s finale.
“We haven’t been able to play in the wind a lot,” Denaburg said. “Getting acclimated to that was super good, and we have a lot of new people on the team too. So it was nice for them to see how it’s going to be when we come back in May.”
UCLA closed out its first day of duals with a reverse-sweep victory over Florida State, picking up wins on the three final courts after going down 2-0. The come-from-behind victory was sealed by court four’s freshman pair of Natalie Myszkowski and Sophie Moore, who extended their undefeated streak to 14 matches by the conclusion of the tournament.
The Bruins faced another fifth-match tiebreaker to kick off Saturday. Featuring new pairs at every court except for Denaburg and Van Winkle’s court one, UCLA split its first four matches against Georgia State, setting up the dual-clinching contest on the top court.
Pushed to a third set, Denaburg and Van Winkle faced a 12-9 deficit, three points away from picking up their team’s first dual loss of the season. Forcing extra points, the duo rattled off a 9-4 run to take home the Bruins’ second straight comeback win.
“Honestly, I didn’t know that it was the deciding match,” Denaburg said. “But me and Abby, one of our focuses is just going out there, enjoying each other and having fun, … and we came back, and we ended up winning.”
Playing in her second-ever collegiate tournament with Van Winkle, Denaburg improved to 8-1 by the event’s conclusion. The sophomore said adjusting to a new partner has been made easier because of the support around her.
Through her first two seasons in the blue and gold, Denaburg was utilized as blocking player, having been paired with junior Lindsey Sparks in 2020 and alumnus Savvy Simo in 2021. Now with the 6-foot-2 Van Winkle, the sophomore plays the role as defender.
“It definitely is really different,” Denaburg said. “But I have really good coaches helping me make the transition. That’s been really nice, but as for playing with Abby, it’s just been a lot of fun.”
UCLA closed out the weekend with a pair of 4-1 wins over two top-20 opponents – Tulane and LSU – and a 5-0 sweep over tournament hosts UAB.
The Bruins will return west to compete in the Pac-12 South Invitational in Tucson on Saturday and Sunday.
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