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UCLA beach volleyball sweeps ‘March to May’ tournament

Sophomore Jessie Smith reaches up for a serve. Smith was made up half the duo that secured UCLA’s sweep against South Carolina on Saturday. (Brandon Morquecho/Daily Bruin)

Beach Volleyball

No. 3 UCLA3
No. 20 South Carolina0
No. 3 UCLA3
No. 6 LSU0
No. 3 UCLA3
No. 4 Florida State2
No. 3 UCLA3
No. 10 Georgia State0
No. 3 UCLA3

By Rahaf Abumansour

March 20, 2023 3:29 p.m.

The women of Westwood marched home with a clean sweep after defeating all five teams in the “March to May” tournament.

No. 3 UCLA beach volleyball (18-1, 3-0 Pac-12) had a shot at redemption after a loss to USC nearly two weeks ago, and it delivered. The blue and gold notched a pair of 3-0 sweeps over No. 20 South Carolina (11-7) and No. 6 LSU (13-4), respectively, as well as a 3-2 defeat of No. 4 Florida State (16-2, 4-1 CCSA) and two additional 3-0 defeats of No. 10 Georgia State (10-7, 3-0 Sun Belt) and UAB (9-10) on Friday and Saturday in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

Rainy conditions forced the Bruins and Gamecocks to play to a decision in the opening dual. Court three was the deciding match, as junior Tessa Van Winkle and sophomore Jessie Smith defeated Kaeli Crews and Kennedy Westendorff, 21-15, 21-15, to grant UCLA a 3-0 sweep.

Coach Stein Metzger said communication between the pairs is vital amid changing lineups.

“We are finding a lineup, it’s the one we have been moving towards,” Metzger said. “We still have people coming in and out of the lineup due to injuries. We have a break to reassess and get everyone healthy.”

The Bruins were forced into another deciding match with the Tigers. With a 21-16, 22-20 victory over Melia Lindner and Amber Haynes of LSU on court five, former Tiger and current graduate student Kelli Greene-Agnew and sophomore Natalie Myszkowski claimed the match for UCLA.

The blue and gold has also found success in Friday’s third match during a close-margin victory over the Seminoles. In the second set of the match, the Bruins rallied for a 26-28, 21-16, 15-12 victory against Anna Long and Jordan Polo on court two to gather an early 2-0 and eventually take home the match.

(Brandon Morquecho/Daily Bruin)
Junior Tessa Van Winkle sends the ball over the net. (Brandon Morquecho/Daily Bruin)

Now entering an 11-day break in their schedule, the team emphasized the importance of balancing practice, rest time and schoolwork for well-rounded athletes. Both Metzger and senior Lexy Denaburg echoed the same sentiments.

“It’s just coming every single day ready to practice, and we have finals and are doing well in those and being mentally ready there,” Denaburg said.

Saturday saw the continuation of the winning habits the Bruins had shown a day prior, as they completed a clean 5-0 sweep of the weekend with additional victories over Georgia State and UAB. Both programs dropped 5-0 decisions to the blue and gold, respectively.

In the initial match against the Panthers on court one, Denaburg and freshman Maggie Boyd defeated Angel and Bella Ferary 21-13, 21-19. UCLA won on all five courts in straight sets.

Denaburg, who usually is paired with Boyd, instead teamed up with Smith for the Bruins’ win against the Blazers as they beat Arden Copping and Mikayla Law-Heese, 22-20, 21-14 on court two.

Denaburg said she wasn’t too stressed about switching partners, attributing her flexibility to what Metzger emphasizes in practice.

“It was good to switch up partners,” Denaburg said. “I think we have been switching around during practice. For us, it wasn’t too hard to switch. The first set, we did have to figure out some stuff, but we have played together.”

Following the weekend’s performance, Metzger acknowledged there is still a long way to go.

“Our best volleyball is still ahead of us. There are small things to work on and fine-tune but nothing big,” Metzger said. “Now that people are playing with similar partners, they are learning each other’s tactics, and they have better communication.”

UCLA is back in action when it hosts Hawai’i at Mapes Beach on Mar. 29.

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Rahaf Abumansour
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