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UCLA beach volleyball readies up for 2024 season with new head coach, leadership

No. 2 UCLA beach volleyball members join together in a huddle. (Brandon Morquecho/Photo editor)

By Sabrina Baker

Feb. 21, 2024 11:22 a.m.

This post was updated Feb. 21 at 9:19 p.m.

A national championship rematch will kick off the Bruins’ 2024 campaign.

No. 2 UCLA beach volleyball will head to Honolulu to compete in the Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Beach Classic, where it will face No. 1 USC – who beat the Bruins in last year’s national championship – in its first matchup. The tournament will take place Thursday through Saturday.

Graduate student Lexy Denaburg said the two teams’ history doesn’t stop the Bruins from viewing this matchup differently from any other.

“It will be really good for our team,” Denaburg said. “We’re going to play USC just like we play any other team this season. It’s a great start to our season.”

After facing USC, UCLA will face three more top-10 teams: No. 9 Hawai’i, No. 7 Stanford and No. 5 LMU.

The Bruins will also look to defend their tournament title as they attempt to three-peat the Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Beach Classic.

Graduate student Jaden Whitmarsh, who has been on the team the longest, said she has used her prior experience to advise the younger players.

“The biggest difference is obviously the weather and the heat,” Whitmarsh said. “In Los Angeles, it’s been a little bit cold and rainy. We are about to go a complete 180 to the heat and wind.”

Although the Bruins are familiar with the Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Beach Classic, they have seen some changes during the preseason – specifically, a new head coach: Jenny Johnson Jordan.

Denaburg said she has loved working with Johnson Jordan as head coach.

“What she is doing with the program is just unlike any other program,” Denaburg said. “We’ve undergone a lot of changes this year, but she’s brought in two great assistant coaches who really buy into our culture and the program in general, and they know Jenny really well. She’s such a great head coach.”

Johnson Jordan, formerly UCLA’s associate head coach, was announced as head coach June 5.

“I’m excited to see what unfolds,” Johnson Jordan said. “I’m excited to see our coaches and their roles and how they are going to lead this team as well. I’m excited for our seniors and this being their last season together.”

Both Denaburg and Whitmarsh have played for the team since 2020.

The two said they both have stepped up into a leadership role since they have a plethora of experience on the team.

“I love being in this position because it’s not so much me having to harp anyone or tell anyone what to do,” Whitmarsh said. “But it’s rather, the younger players on the team can ask me any questions they have or any advice. I just love being able to get closer with my younger teammates.”

Denaburg shared similar sentiments.

“The underclassmen are all great,” Denaburg said. “I really love being able to just help them and show them the way and get them through underclassmen years.”

Denaburg and Whitmarsh will take their leadership to the beach with the Bruins’ first matchup Thursday at 12:15 pm.

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Sabrina Baker | Sports contributor
Baker is currently a Sports contributor on the swim & dive beat.
Baker is currently a Sports contributor on the swim & dive beat.
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