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NCAA beach: Opening week in review, photo galleries from UCLA and Florida State

Nearly a year since NCAA spring sports were canceled by the pandemic, beach volleyball enjoyed its first full weekend of competition despite a lack of spectators throughout most of the country.

There were tournaments from California to Florida, with most of the nation’s teams participating except Hawai’i. The Beachbows begin their season March 22 at UC Davis, playing both Davis and Stanford. See more on the Hawai’i schedule below.

Before the recap of last week’s action, the new AVCA Collegiate Beach Coaches Poll came out Tuesday. With only one week of play in the books, the movement was relatively minor. Only three teams moved more than one spot. UCLA dropped two spots to No. 4, Grand Canyon dropped from No. 7 to No. 10, Stetson fell from No. 11 to No. 16 and TCU advanced from No. 15 to a tie for No. 11 with FAU.You can see the top 20 here.

No. 1 LSU (4-0)
Top-ranked LSU 4-0 at the Houston Baptist tournament, defeating Houston Baptist twice (4-1 and 5-0), Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (5-0) and ULM 4-1. Houston recaps can be found here and here, TAMUCC and ULM here.

Next week: LSU plays host to FAU, Florida State, Georgia State and Houston Baptist March 6-7. See the schedule here.

No. 2 Florida State (4-0)
The Seminoles were poor hosts this weekend at their own Seminole Beach Bash, dispatching Southern Miss (5-0), No. 8 Loyola Marymount (4-1), No. 6 Cal Poly (5-0) and defending Division II NCAA champions (2019) Tampa (5-0). Results can be found at Tournament Central.

Next week: FSU heads to LSU to play ULM, Tulane, Houston Baptist and No. 1 LSU. See the schedule here.

No. 3 USC (2-0)
The Trojans began their 2021 campaign with home duals against No. 10 Pepperdine, winning 4-1 and 5-0. Rob Espero interviewed head coach Dain Blanton afterwards. Watch that interview here.

Next week: The Trojans play host to No. 6 Cal Poly and No. 2 UCLA Thursday, then head to the Pepperdine Invite to play Long Beach State and No. 8 Loyola Marymount Sunday. See the schedule here.

No. 4 UCLA (2-0)
The Bruins had a bit of a scare in their first dual against Stanford, eking out the first dual 3-2, but swept the subsequent dual 5-0. UCLA had to contend with an improved Stanford squad and unusually high 15-25 mile-an-hour winds at the outset.

“It was shaky, for sure,” UCLA coach Stein Metzger said. “We have a lot of new players playing. The last time we had a real season was 11 months ago, and it was a totally different team. the second game I think people got through their jitters and we played close to what we look like in practice.

“It was pretty much what we expected. I’m always hopeful that we’ll come out of the gate guns a-blazing, but I know through experience that when people first put on those four letters, it’s tough. They feel the nerves. I think that what we learned as a group is that you’re reduced to the level of your training in those moments.

The Bruins have been able to put together solid practices since the second week of January, giving them the training foundation they needed at crucial points, Metzger said.

“(Freshman) Lexi Denaburg didn’t have any nerves evident in her match, she was a force out there. And you know what? She’s got some god-given talents, but she works harder than anyone I’ve seen, as hard in the weight room and in practice and she’s so diligent off the court too, she does all the extra stuff. She’s earned the right to be that confident. She’s done the work.”

Metzger sees Stanford as a program on the rise.

“Stanford’s very young, and they look like they’ve improved. (Coach Andrew Fuller) has done a good job with recruiting, and I think Stanford’s going to be making their move maybe this year, maybe next year. I expect them to climb in the rankings, They impressed me with their ability today. They’re making strides, I expect them to be making moves towards the top ten soon.”

UCLA’s recap with scores can be found here, with the photo gallery below.

Next week: The Bruins face Cal Poly and USC at USC Thursday, followed by Cal at home on Saturday. See the schedule here.

No. 5 Hawai’i (0-0)
Hawai’i doesn’t play until March 22. The program announced its schedule Tuesday, which you can read about and see here. The Rainbow Wahine have a new head coach in indoors assistant Angelica Ljungqvist.

“Through all the circumstances and the challenges that COVID presents, we’re very happy and grateful to begin our season soon,” Ljungqvist said in a UH release. “Our ladies and our staff have been working extremely hard to get ready and we can’t wait to get started with competition.”

No. 6 Cal Poly (3-1)
The Mustangs got some first-hand experience with travel adversity as their outgoing flight was diverted due to fog, and their connecting flight home from Dallas was canceled. Poly swept Tampa (5-0), beat No. 18 Georgia State (4-1), defeated Southern Mississippi (5-0) but were defeated by FSU (0-5). Full results can be found at Tournament Central.

Next week: Cal Poly faces UCLA and USC at USC’s Merle Norman Stadium. See the schedule here.

No. 7 Loyola Marymount (3-1)
The Lions finished the Seminole Beach bash with a 3-1 record, besting No. 18 Georgia State (4-1), Tampa (5-0) and Southern Mississippi (5-0), but fell to No. 3 Florida State. Results can be found here.

Next week: LMU heads to Long Beach for a pair of duals against Vanguard and Long Beach State, then heads to Irvine on Sunday for duals against Cal and Concordia. See the schedule here.

No. 8 Cal (2-0)
Cal began its 2021 campaign with home victories against Oregon (5-0) and UC Davis (5-0). Cal has won 20 home matches in a row, extending an 11-match win streak began last year. The bad news? Cal will be on the road for the remainder of the season. Scores can be found here.

Next week: Cal plays at UCLA Saturday, then plays Concordia and Loyola Marymount at Concordia on Sunday. See the schedule here.

No. 9 Pepperdine (0-2)
The Waves had a tough start this past Thursday, losing twice to USC (4-1 and 5-0) before their Stanford dual Sunday was postponed. Pepperdine’s recaps are here.

Next week: The Waves host the Pepperdine invite, facing Long Beach State and USC Sunday at Zuma beach. Thursday’s slate includes a pair of matches at UCLA. See the schedule here.

No. 10 Grand Canyon (2-1)
Grand Canyon was home for its Canyon Classic this past weekend, taking a tough loss to No. 17 Arizona (3-2) but subsequently winning against No. 20 Arizona State (4-1) and Colorado Mesa (5-0). GCU has recaps with scores for Arizona, ASU and Colorado Mesa.

Next week: The Lopes host a pair of duals Friday, facing Park on Friday and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. See the schedule here.

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