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Loss lights fire under UCLA beach volleyball ahead of Battle for LA tournament

Graduate student Abby Van Winkle spikes the ball over the net. Van Winkle entered the 2022-2023 campaign with a career record of 93-27. (Daily Bruin file photo)

Beach Volleyball

Cal Poly
Saturday, 10 a.m.

Mapes Beach
No TV info
Grand Canyon
Saturday, 2 p.m.

Mapes Beach
No TV info
Long Beach State
Sunday, 10 a.m.

Mapes Beach
No TV info
Florida Atlantic
Sunday, 2 p.m.

Mapes Beach
No TV info

By Cecilia Schmitz

March 11, 2023 9:41 a.m.

Recovery is key in sports: including being able to heal from injury, reconfigure a lineup and learn from losses.

No. 3 UCLA beach volleyball (9-1) will attempt to recover in the Battle for Los Angeles tournament this weekend following its first loss of the season to No. 2 USC on Sunday. It will take on Cal Poly (2-8), No. 6 Grand Canyon University (6-2), No. 16 Long Beach State (2-6) and No. 13 Florida Atlantic (7-1).

When asked what was learned from Sunday’s defeat in preparation for the tournament, coach Stein Metzger gave a clear answer.

“What did we learn? We want to play better volleyball,” Metzger said. “We learned that it’s no fun losing to our rival.”

Graduate student Abby Van Winkle highlighted the fuel provided by losing in the Bruins’ crosstown showdown.

“Definitely any loss, any team is gonna motivate us and make us want to work harder,” Van Winkle said. “But especially against USC, I think that’s definitely lighting a fire under us.”

Sunday’s loss marked graduate student Haley Hallgren’s first time facing off against her former team after transferring from USC to Michigan for indoor volleyball then to UCLA this season to return to beach volleyball.

Hallgren said the difference in transitioning from indoor back to beach volleyball proved a challenge that she overcame.

“The hardest thing for me is just not comparing where I am now to where I was two years ago,” Hallgren said. “Trying to kind of manage those expectations, and indoor changed definitely parts of my game, so trying to really work on those (is) more of a power game that I developed there.”

Sunday featured another setback as senior Devon Newberry – who returned to play Saturday after a year-long recovery from a shoulder surgery – faced another injury Sunday against USC.

Metzger said Newberry’s injury meant continuing to test out duos for the upcoming tournament to see possible strong matches.

“We’re gonna continue to have movement in the partnerships. So there’s still some uncertainty there,” Metzger said. “And it’s not really something that we can settle on until we can have her back. But that’s OK, because it gives us more time to figure things out, figure out the right fit.”

Van Winkle added that being flexible with pairings in preparation for setbacks in the rest of the season was critical.

“We are very deep this year, obviously, which is very good. It’s a very good thing,” Van Winkle said. “Being super flexible to playing with anyone is going to help us in the long run.”

The last time the blue and gold faced off against each competitor in the upcoming tournament was during its last campaign where it defeated each team in its respective matches.

Hallgren emphasized building on the previous weekend’s work to be prepared for this weekend’s tournament.

“We’re on the right track. A lot of the decisions we were making in the games were correct, and the effort was there. It was just a matter of fine-tuning that execution,” Hallgren said. “So that’s really been the focus in practice this week, and we’re gonna come back stronger.”

The Bruins will compete at home in the Battle for LA tournament at Mapes Beach this weekend, taking on Cal Poly and Grand Canyon on Saturday and Long Beach State and Florida Atlantic on Sunday.

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Cecilia Schmitz
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