UCLA Beach Volleyball Resumes Quest for Third Straight Title
The Bruins open the season ranked second behind LSU.
When the pandemic hit last year, the UCLA beach volleyball team was 15-2 and looking to defend their consecutive national championships. Their only losses last season came against the LSU Tigers.
This year, the Bruins are ranked as the preseason #2 team behind only the Tigers. While LSU is scheduled to play UCLA on April 3rd, the season opens today with a doubleheader against #19 Stanford.
Since today is the first match of the season, let’s preview this year’s team.
In case you may not have paid much attention to beach volleyball since UCLA won the national title in 2019, the McNamara sisters were both gone as of last season. In fact, UCLA lost several seniors after that title including Sarah Sponcil, Zana Muno and Izzy Carey. After last season, the team lost Lily Justine and Madi Yeomans to graduation. Mac May is also off the roster this season. This is likely due to the fact that the indoor team is playing its season now. Finally, Hawley Harrer has transferred to St. Mary’s.
While Jacqueline Quade joined the team last season as a graduate transfer from Illinois where she played indoors, she still may be new to many Bruin fans. She appeared in just four matches last season and she was 4-0.
The Bruins also have a freshman class of four women. Sophie Swett comes to UCLA after playing indoors at the Branson School in Northern California while Caitlyn Kyle joins the team after playing indoors at Redondo Union HS here in Southern California.
While those freshmen played indoors in high school, Peri Brennan played both indoor and beach volleyball at Laguna Beach High. Tessa Van Winkle also comes to UCLA from Orange County where she also played indoor and beach volleyball for San Clemente High. She joins her sister Abby on this year’s UCLA team.
There’s no doubt that this year’s team is a lot younger than the team which won the national championship in 2019, but that doesn’t mean there is no one left. Savvy Simo returns as a graduate student. Megan Muret finished last season with an 11-3 record and now has a career record of 54-11. It will be interesting to see who she is partnered with due to the loss of Mac May. Lea Munkhouse is also back, though, like Muret, she lost her partner. In Munkhouse’s case, she was partnered with Lily Justine.
Abby Van Winkle is a returning sophomore who has made a mark in 2019 and 2020. Last season, she was paired with Simo all season and they went 13-2 on court one. It will be interested to see if she gets paired with Simo again this season or if head coach Stein Metzger pairs her with her sister Tessa.
The #19 Cardinal come into today’s matches having split a pair of matches with #16 Long Beach State on the road. The big difference was that, in the second match, Stanford coach Andrew Fuller mixed up pair five, adding Emmy Sharp and removing Ellie Gamberdella.
It doesn’t change the outlook. The Bruins should sweep today.
#2 UCLA Beach Volleyball (0-0)
Opponent: #19 Stanford Cardinal (1-1)
Where: Mapes Beach at Sunset Rec, Los Angeles, CA