UCLA wins second straight NCAA beach volleyball title with sweep of rival USC
UCLA won its second straight NCAA beach volleyball national championship on Sunday with a 3-0 win over top-seeded USC in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
The second-seeded Bruins were 2-3 against USC going into the final and had fallen to their archrivals last week in the Pac-12 championship. But they clicked on all five courts in the season's final dual.
"We may have lost some battles," senior Zana Muno said moments after clinching the dual for UCLA. "But we frickin' won the war."
UCLA jumped to an early 2-0 lead with sweeps by No. 4 pair Madi Yeomans and Savvy Simo and No. 5 pair Izzy Carey and Lindsey Sparks.
The No. 3 pair of Muno and Abby Van Winkle sealed it with a sweep of Alexandra Poletto and Haley Hallgren.
UCLA was leading in the remaining two matches when the dual was clinched.
"This team had a lot of growth in the last week, learning to deal with adversity and how to trust each other," UCLA coach Stein Metzger said. "They just stuck together and they played their best match of the tournament today."
It was the first time USC suffered a sweep since March 8, 2014, at Pepperdine.
USC, which lost its opening match Friday against Stetson, was trying to become the first team to lose a first-round match and win the title. But after rallying to beat LSU 3-2 in Sunday morning's semifinal, the Trojans couldn't keep up with the Bruins.
UCLA (2018 and 2019) and USC (2016 and 2017) are the only teams to win NCAA beach titles.
"This is something that's so special and that very, very few people get to experience," Muno said.
Semifinal: No. 1 USC 3, No. 5 LSU 2
Championship dual: No. 2 UCLA 3, No. 1 USC 0
Saturday: UCLA advances to final
Defending champion UCLA clinched a spot in the NCAA beach volleyball final with a 3-0 win over LSU on Saturday in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
The second-seeded Bruins improved to 3-0 in the tournament, including Friday wins over No. 7 Hawaii, 3-2, and No. 3 Florida State, 3-0.
UCLA will play a familiar opponent in the final Sunday at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN. The winner of a Sunday morning semifinal dual between No. 1 USC and No. 5 LSU will advance to face the Bruins. UCLA went 2-3 against the Trojans this season and 3-0 against the Tigers, including Saturday's semifinal win.
Zana Muno and Abby Van Winkle got UCLA on the board first Saturday against LSU, followed seconds later by a second sweep from Sarah Sponcil and Lily Justine. Izzy Carey and Lindsey Sparks clinched it for the Bruins.
The Bruins improved to 12-5 all time in the NCAA tournament and will take a seven-dual tournament winning streak into the final.
"We've got a big one tomorrow, so we have to rest up," Sponcil said.
Pac-12 champion and top-seeded USC staved off elimination twice on Saturday, beating Florida State first and then Hawaii.
USC opened the championships with a loss to No. 8 Stetson on Friday, becoming the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 8 seed. No team has ever gone on to win the title after losing its opening match, but the Trojans are 7-1 all time when facing elimination.
"Every game could potentially be my last game," said graduate student Alexandra Poletto, who won both of her Saturday duals with Haley Hallgren. "So just leave everything out there. You have no energy to save for anything else.
"We can take this."
Elimination bracket: No. 1 USC 3, No. 3 Florida State 1 (Florida State eliminated)
11 a.m.: Elimination bracket, No. 7 Hawaii 3, No. 8 Stetson 0
Noon: Semifinal, No. 2 UCLA 3, No. 5 LSU 0
1 p.m.: Elimination bracket, No. 1 USC 3, No. 7 Hawaii 0 (Hawaii eliminated)
Friday: UCLA, LSU escape unscathed
UCLA and LSU escaped from a wild opening day at the NCAA beach volleyball national championships with perfect records to set up a semifinal showdown Saturday at noon in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
UCLA, the defending national champion and the No. 2 seed, survived an upset bid from No. 7 Hawaii, 3-2, in its first match of the day.
Trailing Hawaii 1-2, the Bruins got a three-set win from their No. 3 pair, Zana Muno and Abby Van Winkle. The Bruins clinched it with a 20-22, 21-15, 20-18 win from twins Nicole and Megan McNamara, who fought off two match points against Emily Maglio and Amy Ozee. It doesn't get much closer than this.
"We're super happy we were able to pull that one out," Nicole McNamara said.
UCLA was then pushed to three-setters in all five duals in a 3-0 win over 2018 runner-up and third-seeded Florida State.
LSU, meanwhile, cruised by Pepperdine 3-0 in its opener before prevailing over surprising Stetson, 3-2.
The Hatters pulled off the biggest upset of the day, taking down top-seeded, two-time champion and reigning Pac-12 champion USC in the day's opening dual. It was the first time in tournament history that a No. 8 seed defeated a No. 1 seed. USC, the national champion in 2016 and 2017, had defeated Stetson 4-1 in a regular-season meeting in March. The Trojans were 6-0 all time against Stetson coming into the match.
The Trojans bounced back in their second match of the day, sending home Pepperdine with a 3-0 sweep.
"They had a little fear in their eyes that first match out," coach Anna Collier said of her team.
No. 8 Stetson 3, No. 1 USC 1
No. 5 LSU 3, No. 4 Pepperdine 0
No. 2 UCLA 3, No. 7 Hawaii 2
No. 3 Florida State 3, No. 6 Cal Poly 0
Elimination bracket, No. 1 USC 3, No. 4 Pepperdine 0 (Pepperdine eliminated)
No. 7 Hawaii 3, No. 6 Cal Poly 0 (Cal Poly eliminated)
Winner's bracket, No. 5 LSU 3, No. 8 Stetson 2
Winner's bracket, No. 2 UCLA 3, No. 3 Florida State 0