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UCLA Beach Volleyball Serves Up Two More Wins to Keep NCAA Title Dreams Alive

After two big wins yesterday, UCLA is one of only three teams left in the NCAA Tournament. The Bruins meet the Florida State Seminoles today with the winner advancing to the NCAA Championship match against the Trojans.

Dan Avia, @UCLAAthletics

NCAA Tournament Losers Bracket Final

#4 UCLA Beach Volleyball (22-7)

Opponent: #3 Florida State (31-2)

When: 8:30 AM PDT, Sunday, May 8, 2016

Where: Gulf Shores, AL

Audio: None

Video: NCAA Live Video

Live Stats: None

UCLA Official Tournament PreviewChampionship Bracket

UCLA moved two steps closer to the NCAA Tournament Championship match with two big wins yesterday. The Bruins are now just one win away from a showdown with Southern Cal for the national title. But first, UCLA has to find a way past Florida State, the tournament's top-seeded team.

After losing to Hawai'i in the opening round of the tourney, the Bruins have won three straight elimination games in the tournament's losers bracket. UCLA has made hard work of all of them. Of course, the Bruins's opponents have been very good teams, but with the exception of Pepperdine, none of them should be considered elite.

UCLA returned to the courts yesterday for a contest against Pepperdine, the Bruins reward for edging Stetson 3-2 on Friday--the first of UCLA's series of elimination matches triumphs. As the nation's second-ranked team, the Waves were easily the best team the Bruins had faced in the competition.

UCLA didn't start well against Pepperdine. For the third consecutive match, the Bruins' Izzy Carey and Elise Zappia lost in straight sets on court 3. UCLA's Nicole and Megan McNamara evened the match on court 1 with a 22-20, 21-17 straight sets victory before the Bruins fell behind again when the duo of Kamila Tan and Ivey Schmitt fell on court 2. It was the third straight defeat in the tourney for Tan & Schmitt.

Jessyka Ngauamo and Zana Muno continued their strong play with a 21-19, 23-21 win on court 4 to even the match. That left the deciding point to the battle on court 5 where Reily Buechler and Julie Consani had won the first set 21-19 and dropped the second set 15-21. In a hard-fought third set, Buechler and Consani edged the Pepperdine pair 15-12 to claim the third and deciding point of the contest. The victory marked UCLA's second upset of the Waves this season.

That set up a rematch with Hawai'i. After being swept by the Rainbow Wahine on Friday, the Bruins had to be concerned about their ability to avenge that loss, especially with an 0-6 tournament record on courts 2 and 3. In fact, UCLA's #2 and #3 pairs weren't just losing--heading into Saturday's second contest, Tan/Schmitt and Carey/Zappia had failed to win a set in 12 attempts.

Therefore, it came as no surprise when the Bruins dropped their first set on courts 2 and 3. The McNamaras also lost their first set on court 1, but Muno/Ngauamo and Buechler/Consani both grabbed first set wins to give the Bruins hope. UCLA's first point came on court 4 when Zana Muno and Jessyka Ngauamo continued their winning ways with a 21-15, 22-20 victory.

Meanwhile, the scores on all the other courts were knotted at 1-1. Nicole and Megan McNamara fought back to win the second set on the top court, while Buechler and Consani faltered on court 5. However, Tan/Schmitt and Carey/Zappia finally broke their losing streaks with set 2 wins--wins that turned out to be pivotal.

While the Bruins were locked up in tight third set battles on courts 1 & 5, Izzy Carey and Elise Zappia claimed UCLA's second point of the match with a 15-11 win in the deciding set. Moments later, Kamila Tan and Ivey Schmitt secured the victory for the Bruins with a 15-12 third set win.

Although the final score shows a 3-0 win for UCLA, it was a very tight match. Coach Metzger has to be especially pleased with the fight back by both Tan/Schmitt and Carey/Zappia and the confidence that it will give those two pairs as they head into a tough contest against the Seminoles.

UCLA is 0-2 against Florida State so far this season. Two months ago, the Bruins lost by a 3-2 margin in Santa Monica. Two weeks later, UCLA came up short again, this time by a 4-1 score in the Stetson Invitational. However, back then Zana Muno was paired with Reily Buechler, Julie Consani's partner was Laurel Weaver, and Zappia/Carey were the Bruins' #2 team. There's been some shuffling of players and partnerships since then, so today's matchups will look different than they did in March.

While it seems likely that Julie Consani will be back in action today, it's worth noting that she suffered an injury in the final set yesterday. Although she returned to the court after a long delay, she wasn't moving as well in the final stages of the match. Keep an eye on the court 5 lineup today to see if Consani is able to play another match.

If the Bruins are able to eliminate the Seminoles, they will advance to the NCAA title game to play Southern Cal at 11:00 AM PDT. The championship match will be televised by TBS.