NCAA Tournament Quarterfinals
#4 UCLA Beach Volleyball (19-6)
Opponent: #5 Hawai'i (16-8)
When: 8:00 AM PDT, Friday, May 6, 2016
Where: Gulf Shores, AL
Video: NCAA Live Video
Live Stats: None
If, like me, you're still depressed after UCLA Men's Volleyball's disappointing loss to Ohio State in last night's NCAA semifinals, then you'll be pleased to see that UCLA can take a step towards restoring order in the volleyball universe this morning when our beach volleyball team begins its NCAA Tournament campaign.
The Bruins open play against Hawai'i today in the second of the tourney's quarterfinals. The format of the tournament is double-elimination, so win or lose, UCLA will play again in the afternoon. If the Bruins win, they will advance to the semifinals of the winners bracket to face the winner of match 1 between #1 Florida State and #8 Stetson. If the Bruins lose, they will drop into the losers bracket to face the loser of match 1.
The fourth-ranked Bruins and sixth-ranked Rainbow Wahine have already played twice this season. Two months ago, UCLA played Hawai'i in the Pepperdine Kick-Off tournament. At that early point in the season, UCLA was the underdog, but the Bruins pulled off a 3-2 upset, with wins by Izzy Carey/Elise Zappia, Reily Buechler/Zana Muno, and Laurel Weaver/Julie Consani. The McNamara twins, UCLA's #1 duo, lost on court 1 in three sets, but it was just the second collegiate match for the freshmen.
A month later, the two teams met again at the Outrigger Beach Volleyball Challenge in Honolulu, and the result was the same: a 3-2 upset win for the Bruins. Once again UCLA got victories from Carey/Zappia and Buechler/Muno, but this time around, the McNamara twins earned a three set win over the Rainbow Wahine's #1 pair of Taylor/Schreiber.
Of course, those previous two wins against Hawai'i won't count for anything today. Given the scoring system in volleyball, matches often hinge on a few key points. The fact that the Bruins narrowly edged Hawai'i in two previous encounters should be considered a warning rather than a comfort. UCLA doesn't need a reminder about this after beating Arizona 4-1 last Saturday and then losing to the Wildcats in the MPSF contenders bracket final the following day.
in any case, things have changed for UCLA since the Outrigger Challenge. Zana Muno is playing with Jessyka Ngauamo now. The McNamara twins have a full season of collegiate experience now. So do fellow freshmen Izzy Carey and Zana Muno. The trajectory of UCLA Beach Volleyball is upwards.
If the Bruins get past Hawai'i, they will likely face top-ranked Florida State in the winners bracket semis at 1:00 PM PDT. UCLA has lost both previous matches against the Seminoles. Two months ago, Florida State defeated the Bruins 3-2 at the Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica. Two weeks later, at the Stetson Beach Invitational in DeLand, Florida, the Seminoles earned a 4-1 win, although the majority of the points were decided in third sets.
If the Bruins drop into the losers bracket, they will almost certainly face Stetson at 11:00 AM PDT. UCLA has played once against Stetson this season, a 3-2 win for the Bruins at the Stetson Beach Invitational. Stetson is ranked ninth in the most recent AVCA Coaches poll.
UCLA has more than enough talent to beat Hawai'i for the third time this season. Coach Stein Metzger has the program moving in the right direction; a opening round win over the Rainbow Wahine would be a good way to show it.