Tuesday, 23 April 2024

International Volleyball

Beach volleyball season opens as UCLA rallies in Hawai’i, upsets abound in Florida

Beach volleyball season opens as UCLA rallies in Hawai'i, upsets abound in Florida

Riley Wagoner of Hawai’i hits against UCLA’s Kenzie Brower/UH photo

UCLA was the last team standing after three chaotic days in Honolulu as the NCAA beach volleyball season opened with a bang. Also, Arizona State bedeviled the competition in Tampa and TCU dispatched two ranked foes in Houston. We conclude this report with a look ahead to the second week of the young season:  

Battered-but-unbowed Bruins

Wounded multiple times during the first two days of round-robin battles on Queen’s Beach, UCLA rallied on Saturday to win the war.

The Bruins, ranked No. 2 in the AVCA preseason beach-volleyball poll, blitzed No. 1 USC 4-1 in the title dual of the Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Beach Classic in Honolulu, culminating an epic march through the championship bracket.

UCLA had staggered out of round-robin play with a 1-3 record, beaten 4-1 by the archrival Women of Troy, 3-2 by No. 7 Stanford and 3-2 by No. 5 Loyola Marymount, with only a 5-0 victory over No. 9 Hawaii as a Band-Aid on the blood-letting.

But longtime assistant and now head coach Jenny Johnson Jordan, in her first tournament in command, inspired her troops in a final-day counterattack.

First to fall, by a 5-0 count in the quarterfinal, were the host Rainbow Wahine, who lost all five of their duals on home sand. Stanford put up stiff opposition in the semifinals before succumbing 3-2, with Jaden Whitmarsh and Tessa Van Winkle beating Chloe Hoffman and Kate Reilly 21-18, 21-17 on Court 3 to clinch the victory for the Bruins.

Pivotal in the 42nd meeting all-time between UCLA and USC, the most decorated programs in NCAA beach volleyball, was a 21-15, 21-17 victory on the marquee No. 1 court by Bruins Maggie Boyd and Lexy Denaburg over Megan Kraft and Delaynie Maple. Boyd and Denaburg had gone 3-3 in their matches on storied Queen’s Beach coming into the final, including a straight-sets setback to Kraft and Maple, who came into the final undefeated without losing a set.

The Bruins’ 5s pair of junior Natalie Myszkowski and sophomore Ensley Alden, who went 6-1 on the weekend, sealed the victory by topping Olivia Bakos and Ainsley Radell 21-19, 24-22. UCLA took a 24-18 advantage in the all-time series with USC, which advanced to the championship dual with a 4-1 victory in the semifinals over Loyola Marymount.

The team that likely raised its stock the most during the three-day opening-week firefight was Stanford. The Cardinal won significant skirmishes by going unbeaten during round-robin…

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