Two-time defending NCAA beach volleyball champion UCLA, Big West champion Cal Poly, and West Coast Conference champion Loyola Marymount gathered at WAVE Beach in Del Mar, Calif. Saturday for the p1440 Collegiate Challenge. The three teams received a welcome break from practice to test their skills in a three-team round-robin format.
Drawing conclusions from November matches are at best iffy, as most teams will add indoor players after their season has concluded, and most squads have not yet made pairing decisions for the NCAA beach volleyball season that begins March 5, 2020.
UCLA came out the big winner Saturday, defeating both Loyola Marymount and Cal Poly 4-1. Loyola edged Cal Poly 3-2. Full results and a photo gallery are below.
UCLA capped a spectacular 2019 by repeating as NCAA champions at Gulf Shores, finishing with a 35-3 record and moving undefeated through the championship bracket.
Cal Poly made big strides in 2019, winning their first Big West championship, but were unable to overcome either Florida State or Hawai’i at the NCAA championships, finishing with a 25-12 record.
Loyola Marymount also won their first-ever conference title in 2019, defeating Pepperdine twice to win the WCC title in Santa Monica. The Lions finished the year 27-11 but were not selected for the NCAA championship field.
UCLA coach Stein Metzger relished the opportunity to measure his team’s progress.
“Today was a good opportunity to see where we’re at at the end of the fall,” Metzger said.
“Great competition. I always love competing against (LMU coach) John Mayer and (Cal Poly’s) Todd Rogers, who I’ve known for many, many years.
“I think that the teams really enjoy the competition and the facility, and WAVE and p1440 really put on a good tournament for us.”
UCLA will have a much more youthful look this year, graduating five seniors, including Nicole and Megan McNamara, who are competing internationally for Canada; Sarah Sponcil, currently ranked third in Tokyo Olympic qualification with Kelly Claes; Zana Muno, who had a breakout third-place finish at AVP Hermosa with Cal Poly assistant beach coach Crissy Jones; and Izzy Carey, who went 36-2 for the Bruins in the No. 5 pairing.
Metzger acknowledges that 2020 is much more open than in previous years.
“It’s a culmination of the whole fall. We’ve done a lot of learning with each other,” Metzger said. “Our freshmen have been learning our style, our system, and us learning more about how people work with each other, and in January, that will be when we have a few indoor players come over, and we’ll start mixing them into our pairs, and we’ll really start taking a look at partnerships.”
Of course, practice doesn’t necessarily tell a coach how a player will compete, Metzger said.
“Game planning, and making adjustments against a new opponent, that isn’t something that you can duplicate in practice because we know each other so well.”
UCLA 4, Loyola Marymount 1
No. 1: UCLA’s Lexy Denaburg/Lindsey Sparks def. Loyola’s Reka Orsi Toth/Selina Marolf 21-18, 21-12
No. 2: UCLA’s Lily Justine/Megan Muret def. Loyola’s Darby Dunn/Georgia Fusco 21-15, 21-14
No. 3: UCLA’s Rileigh Powers/Madi Yeomans def. Loyola’s Emma Doud/Cassie Chinn 21-13, 17-21, 15-12
No. 4: UCLA’s Hannah Phair/Lea Monkhouse def. Loyola’s Audrey Klemp/Ashley Stevens 21-16, 21-11
No. 5: Loyola’s Bailey Steger/Sydnie Herrmann def. UCLA’s Piper Monk-Heidrich/Jaden Whitmarsh 11-21, 21-19, 15-11