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UCLA beach volleyball 2023 NCAA tournament predictions

The UCLA beach volleyball team celebrates. The Bruins are currently heading to the NCAA Championships after taking home the Pac-12 conference title last week. (Alex Driscoll/Daily Bruin staff)

By Alexis Hinkle, Rahaf Abumansour, and Cecilia Schmitz

May 3, 2023 6:26 p.m.

No. 1 seed UCLA beach volleyball (37-3, 7-0 Pac-12) will travel to Gulf Shores, Alabama, to compete in the NCAA tournament, where it will face the winner of the opening round contest between No. 16 seed UT Martin (27-8, 10-0 OVC) and No. 17 seed Texas A&M Corpus Christi (24-9, 6-0 SLC) in the first round. The Bruins have yet to take home an NCAA championship title since 2019. Take a look at how Daily Bruin Sports predicts the tournament will play out.

Alexis Hinkle
Daily Bruin reporter
Prediction: National champions

In the wise words of senior Devon Newberry, the No. 1 seed UCLA beach volleyball team “hasn’t hit their stride yet, but it’s coming.”

After winning the Pac-12 championship last week and earning the top seed for the NCAA tournament, the Bruins will continue to progress and lift yet another trophy as national champions.

UCLA will take care of business in the first round against either 16th-seeded UT Martin or 17th-seeded A&M-Corpus Christi. Despite the two opponents’ recent conquest of their respective conference titles, it won’t cause problems for the Bruins, as they will sweep the first round tallying their 24th sweep of the year.

Despite capturing a win over its first-round opponent, the blue and gold will then face a challenge against No. 8 seed California (28-9, 3-1) in the following dual. The Golden Bears will be hungry, as they endured a tough loss in the Pac-12 championship against the Bruins in the final.

However, that fight will not end the Bruins’ ride in Gulf Shores, as UCLA will extend its 13-0 all-time record against Cal. I predict that it will all come down to court three where graduate student Haley Hallgren and senior Rileigh Powers will do what they do best: rally until the end to clinch yet another duo win.

But, the toughest battles will come in the semifinal and final rounds. Last year, the Bruins fell to USC in the semifinal round and were unable to pull out a win in the contender’s bracket. But I believe this year will look very different for the blue and gold, as this cultivated squad will continue to peak in the last few matches of the year.

After facing No. 5 seed LSU for the third year in a row and securing the win, it will all come down to the Los Angeles schools once again. Third-seeded USC is the reigning national champion of the past two seasons, but the Bruins will take back the title.

It will be a tough matchup since it has been a back-and-forth battle between the two schools throughout the season. However, the blue and gold will emerge as the champions of LA even on a national scale.

After a season of continuous improvement, UCLA beach volleyball will end at its peak.

Cecilia Schmitz
Daily Bruin contributor
Prediction: National champions

This year’s Bruin squad is deep.

It’s what coach Stein Metzger has been emphasizing all season. Anchored by veteran leadership of players such as senior Lexy Denaburg and graduate student Abby Van Winkle – the Bruins’ all-time career leader in wins – as well as talented younger athletes such as sophomore Jessie Smith and freshman Maggie Boyd, there is a wide breadth to pull from for possible combinations.

All this is what it takes to win a national championship.

The Bruins haven’t had to rely on one specific roster of pairs in order to win. They’ve been flexible all season with their ability to adapt to different pairings, which is key to battling teams with different playing styles.

It’s been seen in the team’s ability to recover from setbacks, taking injuries and losses in stride and returning stronger with a fire lit underneath them, such as the victorious return of Newberry.

After UCLA’s first defeat of the season at the hands of crosstown rival USC, the Bruins returned to defeat the Trojans in each subsequent matchup. At the Pac-12 tournament last weekend, after suffering a loss to Stanford, the squad battled its way through the contender’s bracket to claim the Pac-12 championship crown, showing how they can take a blow in stride and keep pushing.

The players are also hungry: They’ve emphasized never taking their ranking for granted or underestimating their opponent. This tough underdog mentality will carry them through the NCAA tournament.

Despite entering this tournament as the No. 1 seed, this squad will take on each opponent with fierce determination and grit. They will initially encounter either No. 16 seeded UT Martin or No. 17 seeded A&M-Corpus Christi with ease. From there, it’ll be a rematch of the Pac-12 championship, where the Bruins will use their experience and breadth to claim another win against the Golden Bears. After that, UCLA will face No. 4 seed Florida State, seeking revenge for their semifinal elimination of last season. Finally, UCLA will face off against No. 2 seed TCU.

This won’t be without its challenges, but this team has proven it can claw its way back to the top, which will secure that elusive national championship that hasn’t belonged to Westwood since 2019.

Rahaf Abumansour
Daily Bruin contributor
Prediction: National champions

If there is anything the Bruins can do well, it’s win.

As the No. 1 seed and Pac-12 champions, UCLA beach volleyball is preparing to dominate the NCAA tournament as it strives for a title after two years of losing to its crosstown rival, USC.

The first round should go smoothly, as UCLA will play either No. 16 seed UT Martin or No. 17 seed A&M-Corpus Christi. The first round should be a Bruin sweep regardless of the team played, as the Bruins will showcase nothing but excellence.

The second round against No. 8 seed California will be just as interesting as the last time the two programs met. With the Golden Bears out for redemption after the Bruins defeated them in the Pac-12 championship dual, UCLA will push through and fight for the victory. With the pair of Van Winkle and junior Peri Brennan present, the Golden Bears should not be an issue as the selectees to the Pac-12 All-Tournament Team will rally until the end to secure the win.

With the NCAA title being passed around between the two teams since the tournament’s creation, the crown will once again be determined in the crosstown rivalry matchup between UCLA and USC.

No. 3 seed USC is not a team to underestimate. The Bruins have already lost to the Trojans once this season during the Pac-12 South Invitational. But since that first defeat, UCLA has found victory over USC three times. With all the efforts and training this squad has been doing this year and the return of Newberry, the Bruins will be ready to take on the Trojans once again.

As Metzger put it, we will be seeing “fireworks” as the squad returns as reigning champions.

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Alexis Hinkle
Hinkle is a 2023-2024 assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, women's tennis, men's golf and track and field beats. She was previously a reporter on the women's basketball and beach volleyball beats. She is also a second-year sociology student.
Hinkle is a 2023-2024 assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, women's tennis, men's golf and track and field beats. She was previously a reporter on the women's basketball and beach volleyball beats. She is also a second-year sociology student.
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