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UCLA beach volleyball prepares to take on Center of Effort Challenge

Junior Abby Van Winkle looks to receive the ball in a match against LSU on April 3. Van Winkle and No. 3 UCLA beach volleyball will play four opponents at the Center of Effort Challenge from Friday to Saturday. (Joseph Jimenez/Daily Bruin)

beach volleyball

No. 4 Florida State
Friday, 2 p.m.

Swanson Beach Volleyball Complex
No TV info
No. 6 Loyola Marymount
Friday, 5 p.m.

Swanson Beach Volleyball Complex
No TV info
No. 13 Cal Poly
Saturday, 1:45 p.m.

Swanson Beach Volleyball Complex
No TV info
No. 1 USC
Saturday, 5:50 p.m.

Swanson Beach Volleyball Complex
No TV info

By Juliana Chen

April 14, 2022 11:28 a.m.

The Bruins are set to embark on their final tournament before the postseason.

Beginning a stretch of six duals before the Pac-12 Championships, No. 3 UCLA beach volleyball (25-2, 7-0 Pac-12) will face four opponents in the Center of Effort Challenge in San Luis Obispo, California, from Friday to Saturday. The blue and gold has contests against No. 4 Florida State (24-5, 6-2 CCSA) and No. 6 Loyola Marymount (22-4, 4-0 WCC) on day one before matching up against No. 13 Cal Poly (17-11) and No. 1 USC (23-1) to close out the tournament.

Last year, the Bruins competed against four teams in the same tournament, and they will be facing three of those four programs again this weekend. Unlike last year’s tournament, UCLA will also take on Florida State, a team it previously defeated March 18.

The event allows for all five court pairings to play at once, different from UCLA’s usual home contests at Mapes Beach. With the format of the tournament, coach Stein Metzger said there are advantages and disadvantages to playing again in the Center for Effort Challenge.

“We were able to play all at once, which is not ideal because we only have three coaches and five teams are playing, so some teams will be playing on their own,” Metzger said. “We are bringing our whole squad and those that are in the support role will be assigned to a pair – it is what we do for all of the national championships, so it will be a great primer.”

Sophomore Lexy Denaburg and junior Abby Van Winkle, who each competed at the tournament last year on separate courts, are now paired together on court one.

The Division I committee for beach volleyball recently expanded the national championship bracket to 16 teams for 2022. Upon entering the tail end of the regular season, Van Winkle said she is excited for the opportunity to preview what postseason competition will be like.

“It is definitely going to be a great run right before going to nationals,” Van Winkle said. “These are going to be the same teams that will be there, so it will be great practice before the end.”

Among UCLA’s competition this weekend is crosstown rival USC. While the Bruins took down the Trojans in their first meeting March 5, the loss marked the Trojans’ lone defeat of the season. USC has since risen atop the rankings after sweeping over 65% of its opponents.

USC and UCLA are the only two schools to have captured the national championship title since its inauguration in 2016, with the former winning three and the latter winning two.

Heading into postseason, Denaburg said she hopes the team continues to prioritize working on chemistry.

“As a team, I am hoping we can bring more fire and more of a routine personality because we haven’t really (gotten) a glimpse of what it is,” Denaburg said. “I am hoping that we can bring some support.”

UCLA will kick off play against Florida State on Friday at 2 p.m. at Swanson Beach Volleyball Complex.

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Juliana Chen | Sports contributor
Chen is currently a Sports contributor on the beach volleyball beat. She was previously a contributor on the women's basketball and women's volleyball beats.
Chen is currently a Sports contributor on the beach volleyball beat. She was previously a contributor on the women's basketball and women's volleyball beats.
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