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UCLA beach volleyball sets tempo in Tempe with 1st conference tournament

Graduate student Jaden Whitmarsh passes the ball to her partner, senior Tessa Van Winkle. (Zimo Li/Daily Bruin)

By Sevginaz Gurleyici

March 10, 2024 1:14 p.m.

A sunshine-filled first conference tournament had split results for the Bruins in Tempe this weekend.

In true beach volleyball fashion, the sun was shining, sunglasses were on and intensity was high.

No. 1 UCLA beach volleyball (11-4, 1-0 Pac-12) started the weekend with a victory against No. 10 Arizona State (7-1, 1-0) and a loss to No. 2 Stanford (10-2, 2-1) on Friday, and it finished the tournament Saturday morning with wins against unranked Oregon (1-10, 0-2) and No. 14 Washington (5-7, 2-1) at the Sun Devil Beach Volleyball Facility.

The weekend’s Pac-12 South Invitational tournament was one of resilience for the Bruins, said sophomore Maggie Boyd, as they rose up from their 3-2 loss to the Cardinal on Friday afternoon in order to come out of Saturday’s matches with success.

“I think yesterday obviously didn’t go our way,” Boyd said. “But our team took it as an opportunity to learn and to grow, and I don’t think the loss affected our confidence in any way.”

Boyd and graduate student Lexy Denaburg did just that, as they completed the weekend with 2-0 victories against Oregon and Washington.

Having just been named Pac-12 Pair of the Week and AVCA National Pair of the Week, the duo hopes to continue its growth as a pair throughout the remainder of the season.

Coach Jenny Johnson Jordan said it was important for the team to focus on its own gameplay to rebound from Friday’s loss.

“It’s just focusing on our side and what we’re doing,” Johnson Jordan said. “I find that when we do that, we tend to be more focused and play better. Those are the things that we can control on our side of the net.”

For senior Tessa Van Winkle and graduate student Jaden Whitmarsh, the weekend tournament was one of climbing their way back up.

As one of two pairs from the Bruins to win its matchups against Stanford, the two had to play through three close sets to claim their 2-1 victory.

“We knew going into it that we needed to focus on our side and go point by point,” Whitmarsh said. “We just stayed connected and just had the next ball mentality, which brought out another scrappy side of us.”

The victory against Stanford was not the two’s only close matchup on the weekend, with two three-set matches on Saturday.

The duo ended its matches against Oregon and Washington with scores of 2-1, in sets full of play-saving digs by Whitmarsh and aggressive serves by Van Winkle.

“Especially in the heat, it’s really exhausting, long rallies,” Whitmarsh said. “We just had the mentality of being aggressive and putting balls away. That helps with those three-setters.”

Johnson Jordan said the duo’s difficult victories will be valuable later in the year.

“Both of those (sets), I think, was a big deal for them today and just would only help them later on as the season goes on,” Johnson Jordan said.

Following their start to the season against several West Coast teams, the Bruins now look ahead to face off against teams from the east in the East Meets West Invitational next weekend.

“I feel great,” Johnson Jordan said. “We’re going to play some tough East Coast teams, and that’s what we want, you know? We want to play the best and sharpen ourselves so that we can be our best when it comes to the end of the season.”

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Sevginaz Gurleyici
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