In the end, it was no surprise that it came down to No. 1 UCLA and No. 2 USC. After all, no other program has won it all in NCAA beach volleyball.
And in the end, it was USC (30-4) winning the NCAA’s National Collegiate Beach Volleyball Championship by beating the Bruins (32-5) 3-1 Sunday afternoon in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
USC won the first two NCAA titles, in 2016 and 2017. Then UCLA won the next two before the 2020 spring season came to a halt and there was no championship.
They played five previous times this spring, and the results were totally unpredictable. USC swept 5-0 on March 4. Then USC beat UCLA twice in the same week in April, winning 3-2 both times. And in the Pac-12 Championship, UCLA won twice, 3-1 in the winners-bracket final and 3-2 in the championship match.
In this tournament, UCLA beat TCU in the opener Friday, but then was stunned by No. 5 Loyola Marymount. As a result, the Bruins had to beat both Cal Poly and LSU on Saturday and then LMU again Sunday morning.
Meanwhile, USC took advantage of winning, having to play just three matches before Sunday’s final. The Trojans beat Cal Poly and Florida State on Friday and then, by beating Loyola Marymount on Saturday, moved right into Sunday’s championship match.
USC took a 1-0 lead when Haley Hallgren and Hailey Harward beat UCLA’s Lindsey Sparks and Abby Van Winkle 21-14, 21-17. UCLA tied it when its No. 5 pair of Rileigh Powers and Jaden Whitmarsh beat Audrey and Nicole Nourse 21-13, 26-24.