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UCLA beach volleyball kicks off season with tournament victory

Sophomore Maggie Boyd reaches to defend against a USC player. (Daily Bruin file photo)

By Lori Garavartanian

Feb. 25, 2024 6:34 p.m.

This post was updated Feb. 25 at 9:31 p.m.

Ensley Alden and Natalie Myszkowski bore the weight of a tournament victory for the Bruins on Saturday.

The redshirt freshman and junior, respectively, clinched their first frame of the final match by two points and pushed the second to overtime before winning it all for the Bruins.

Despite dropping three of four matches in the opening two days, No. 2 UCLA beach volleyball (4-3) took down No. 1 USC (4-2) 4-1 in the final round of the Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Beach Classic to secure the tournament trophy.

Heading into the final day with just one win on the board, the Bruins proved to be a different team Saturday with back-to-back-to-back wins to take on their crosstown rivals.

The series of losses began coach Jenny Johnson Jordan’s first season with the program. Johnson Jordan said the team has been preparing for its 2024 campaign for about six months now.

“We started preparing as soon as school started in September,” Johnson Jordan said. “We got a chance to travel together to Europe and create some competitive and noncompetitive memories with each other.”

Despite the initial losing record, Johnson Jordan led her team to three consecutive victories on the final day with defeats over the Rainbow Wahine and the Cardinal to meet the Trojans on the final stage.

The duo of sophomore Maggie Boyd and graduate student Lexy Denaburg secured a game in two sets against Hawai’i on Saturday morning. Despite a loss to Stanford in the second contest of day three, the two bounced back to defeat USC’s Megan Kraft and Delaynie Maple in the finale.

“One thing our team has been working on this year is having a next ball mentality and a next match mentality,” Boyd said. “No matter what happens in the game before, we learn from it.”

Boyd, last year’s Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, said this year is entirely novel for the team. The Bruins’ focus stays on game-by-game improvement, she added.

Alden and Myszkowksi implemented that philosophy, letting just one game slip out of their hands in the seven-game stretch. Stanford’s Maya Harvey and Clara Stowell bested Alden and Myszkowski on day two, but the Bruin duo avenged their Northern California foes in straight sets day three.

“There’s more to find out about us,” Alden said. “We’ve all proved to ourselves that we’ve worked hard during preseason and during the fall, and we have more to go.”

Alden and Myszkowski’s win against USC secured the hardware for UCLA and a 6-1 record for the two, the best out of all Bruin pairings.

After redshirting her freshman year, Alden has assumed a larger role being paired with the more seasoned Myszkowski this season.

“Last year, I had a completely different role going into the season. I think that gave me a different perspective on the team culture and how important each role is,” said Alden. “I don’t know a lot yet, but I’m trying to have fun and learn from my peers, too.”

Johnson Jordan said the wins through the weekend can be credited to support from those who work behind the scenes. She added that the team is doing a good job of acknowledging everyone who contributes to its success and adopting an all-hands-on-deck mentality.

The Bruins are now striving to be crowned victors in next week’s Battle for LA.

“We really just want to play as hard as we can, no matter the team across the net,” Boyd said.

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