Swim & Dive,
Battle of the Editors: Which Bruin duo had the most successful summers?
Sophomore setter Andrew Rowan (left) sets the ball, while sophomore outside hitter Zach Rama (right) reaches up on a block attempt. (Left to right: Shane Yu/Daily Bruin, Amelie Ionescu/Daily Bruin senior staff)
A number of Bruin duos excelled in summer tournaments, whether they were representing their school, their country or themselves. The Daily Bruin Sports editors debate which pair of teammates had the best summer performances and what that could mean for them in the season ahead.
Men’s basketball: Sebastian Mack and Lazar Stefanovic
Joseph Crosby, Sports editor
Coach Mick Cronin has a swath of new talent on his hands.
But this summer, it’s been freshman guard Sebastian Mack and Utah transfer junior guard Lazar Stefanovic leading UCLA men’s basketball.
During their Spanish tour this summer, the Bruins played three games against the Madrid All-Stars, Basquet L’Horta Godella and Bàsquet Girona, winning the first two before dropping the final game.
Both Mack and Stefanovic tallied double-digit points in each game, with Mack’s 17 points pacing the team in scoring against the Madrid All-Stars and Stefanovic reaching 23 points to lead UCLA against Basquet L’Horta Godella.
Not to be outshined in the first game of the trip, Stefanovic posted a 14-point, 13-rebound double-double to go along with 10 deflections. Mack, on the other hand, reached the 17-point figure in game two, trailing only Stefanovic in scoring. The duo then tallied 12 points each in the loss to Bàsquet Girona.
Though listed at guard, Stefanovic’s 6-foot-7 frame and rebounding ability could see him fill a hybrid guard/forward role depending on Cronin’s rotations. Meanwhile, Mack has flashed his four-star pedigree and could fit into the starting five or come off the bench.
The Bruins’ upcoming campaign is full of unknowns, but Mack’s and Stefanovic’s performances abroad may have clarified scoring concerns for Cronin.
Men’s volleyball: Andrew Rowan and Zach Rama
Ira Gorawara, assistant Sports editor
Five Bruins from the 2023 championship squad infused a Westwood touch into Team USA.
And with that, coach John Speraw has little to worry about regarding talent on the roster as the question of a back-to-back title lingers.
Because for UCLA men’s volleyball, the summer spotlight belonged to a pair of sophomore sensations.
Just a month after the Bruins secured their 20th trophy in program history – and their first since 2006 – setter Andrew Rowan and outside hitter Zach Rama were selected to compete in the 2023 Men’s U21 World Championship in Manama, Bahrain.
And the then-19-year-old Rowan was appointed captain of the squad after a breakout freshman season earned him the AVCA Newcomer of the Year award – the first time a Bruin has garnered this accolade since 1997 – and MPSF Freshman of the Year honors.
In the tournament opener, Rowan reinforced his captaincy as he made his mark both offensively and defensively. The First-Team All-American contributed four points on three kills and a service ace, as well as three digs on the defensive front.
Donning the American colors alongside his Bruin teammate was familiar for Rama after they graced the hardwood together in the 2022 Men’s U21 Pan American Cup. It was in that very tournament that Rowan’s Best Setter, Best Server and MVP awards and Rama’s Best Attacker recognition propelled the Americans to victory.
This summer, Rama notched double-digit kills in four of the eight games he played, outperforming his UCLA career best of 12 as he managed 18 against Czechia and led the Americans with 12 digs in the same contest. The Phoenix local proved to be Team USA’s offensive stalwart, as he also summed seven aces throughout the tournament – after tallying just two his entire freshman season.
With this young Bruin duo paving a path of promise, Speraw can eye Westwood’s 122nd crown.
Women’s basketball: Kiki Rice and Londynn Jones
Alexis Hinkle, assistant Sports editor
Half of UCLA women’s basketball competed internationally this summer.
From Madrid to Israel to Mexico, the Bruins scattered across the world to represent their countries.
But sophomore guards Kiki Rice and Londynn Jones had the best run of the pack.
The Pac-12 All-Freshman Team honorees had a significant breakout season as Bruins. Rice played as the team’s starting guard, ranking first among Pac-12 freshmen in minutes played and points scored. Jones saw the court in all 37 games as a spark off the bench and a weapon from beyond the arc.
Rice and Jones were selected to compete at the 2023 USA Women’s U19 National Team trials in May after their first season on the collegiate courts. Their dominance on the court earned them both a spot on the 2023 USA Basketball team.
This summer is not the first time the dynamic duo has donned the red, white and blue. They won gold twice in the youth levels at both the 2019 and 2022 FIBA Women’s Americas Championships.
And they did it again.
Both Rice and Jones saw the court in all seven games, averaging 10 and 8.7 points per game respectively. Their chemistry as UCLA teammates helped lead the team and take home the gold once again.
The pair are heading into their second season as Bruins with more partnership and a winning pedigree after three years of international competition and one UCLA season under their belts.
All six Bruins who traveled the world this summer earned experience and success, but there’s nothing better than winning gold.
Swim and dive: Eva Carlson and Paige MacEachern
Felicia Keller, assistant Sports editor
After strong performances in the ultimate collegiate American pool – the NCAA championships last March – two UCLA swimmers took their talents across the Pacific Ocean to compete for Team USA at the World University Games in Chengdu, China.
The World University Games, after two years of postponements, began with 32 swimmers representing Team USA from various programs across the country. Juniors Paige MacEachern and Eva Carlson made the trip for the Bruins, along with associate head coach Karissa Kruszewski.
Across the seven days of swimming, Carlson advanced into one final, finishing sixth alongside her teammates in the 4×100-meter medley relay. MacEachern now boasts two international medals, collecting a silver in the 4×200-meter relay and a bronze individually in the 400-meter medley.
The return for the two Bruins, as well as Team USA as a whole, was solid – one gold medal, three silver medals, three bronze medals and 31 finals appearances – against the top swimmers from other countries.
Rather than field an official team as some competitors chose to, Team USA went for a more independent approach, with the coaching staff recruiting players to make the trip.
The group met up for a short training camp in Los Angeles before leaving for Chengdu, where the team marched in the World University Games’ opening ceremonies.
Carlson and MacEachern’s three finals appearances and two medals outweigh any other duo over the summer. Returning for the UCLA regular season, the now-upperclassmen have plenty of new experience to tout.
Baseball: Duce Gourson and Michael Barnett
Benjamin Royer, assistant Sports editor
College baseball, compared to other collegiate sports, is unique. The NCAA season ends, but in the summer, the sport’s landscape changes.
Players from programs across the nation pack their bags, fly states away – a coast-to-coast journey for most of UCLA baseball – and take the field in summer collegiate leagues.
Junior infielder Duce Gourson and sophomore right-hander Michael Barnett played for the Falmouth Commodores in the Cape Cod Baseball League. While the former exited New England early and suited up for the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team for the second half of his offseason, the latter shined as a workhorse ace.
Gourson tallied just one hit – a home run – across three games in Falmouth and left the prestigious summer league for Cary, North Carolina, the home base for USA Baseball, in late June.
Team USA played 10 games against Japan and Chinese Taipei in Cary, helping the third-year Bruin gain valuable experience. Despite Gourson slashing .154/.313/.154 in six games of action, the opportunity capped off a stellar 2023 for UCLA’s pencil-in second baseman, regardless of his results.
Barnett, on the other hand, toed the mound into the postseason for Falmouth and extended his freshman campaign by five starts – posting a 4.00 ERA in a team-high 27.0 innings. His ERA ranked fourth among the Commodores’ pitchers with 20 or more innings.
The sinkerballer allowed three or fewer earned runs in all seven of his appearances and had arguably his best start of the summer in the playoffs, allowing just one earned run over five innings.
Coach John Savage will need both to start strong in the spring, but their summers leave plenty to be excited about.
Beach volleyball: Devon Newberry and Jaden Whitmarsh
Cecilia Schmitz, assistant Sports editor
Beach volleyball is inherently defined by pairs.
Unlike indoor volleyball, the score on each court is entirely contingent upon the two players who are matched together.
Chemistry is key: Success is determined by how well partners understand each other and can read what the other is going to do.
UCLA beach volleyball has five pairs that play on the courts, frequently rotating out partners to find the best possible duo to win a match.
One pairing that has remained constant since the 2022 season – excluding time off due to injury – is graduate student Devon Newberry and graduate student Jaden Whitmarsh.
First paired together two seasons ago for most of their matches, the duo played the rest of the season together, reaching as far as the NCAA semifinals.
Newberry entered the 2023 season with a shoulder injury, so Whitmarsh cycled through various partners until her regular partner was able to return.
After Newberry recovered from another temporary injury, the two were back on Court 5 together, where they would remain, winning their court in the NCAA championship.
The pair’s rapport didn’t stop alongside the school year.
Newberry and Whitmarsh joined forces to compete in the AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour over the summer, making it to the Hermosa Beach Open after a series of qualifying tournaments before placing seventh.
As the two student-athletes enter their final year at UCLA, the Bruin faithful should expect to see Newberry’s block alongside Whitmarsh’s dig one last time.