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STANFORD, Calif. — No. 1 UCLA (33-3) dropped its first-ever dual to No. 8 Stanford (28-10) on Thursday afternoon in a winner’s bracket semifinal at the 2023 Pac-12 Championship, 3-2, at Stanford’s Beach Volleyball Stadium. The Bruins dropped to 19-1 all-time against the Cardinal. It was also the first time since 2017 that UCLA lost to someone not named USC at the Pac-12 Championship (the Bruins were eliminated in 2017 by Arizona).
Playing in the second semifinal right after third-seeded California upset second-seeded USC in the first semifinal, it was clear that the Cardinal used it as inspiration and the Bruins did not heed the warning sign. Kelly Belardi and Ashley Vincent put the Cardinal on the board first with a straight-set win on court four over graduate student Marlie Monserez and sophomore Jessie Smith, 21-19, 21-18.
Graduate student Abby Van Winkle and junior Peri Brennan tied the dual at 1-1 with a come-from-behind win on court two over Stanford’s Charlie Ekstrom and Maya Harvey, 19-21, 21-18, 15-11.
UCLA’s senior Devon Newberry and graduate student Jaden Whitmarsh quickly made it 2-1 with a 21-11, 21-19 win on court five over Line Andersson and Daria Gusarova. The relatively new 2023 duo of Whitmarsh and Newberry.improved to 6-0 on the year (all on court five). They were also the only Bruin pair to win in straight sets.
But Stanford answered to tie the dual at 2-2 with a win by Xolani Hodel and Maddi Kriz on court one over the Bruins’ senior Lexy Denaburg and freshman Maggie Boyd, 21-15, 20-22, 16-14.
It all came down to court three where the Bruin pair of senior Rileigh Powers and graduate student Haley Hallgren was fighting an uphill battle after dropping the first set to the Cardinal’s Kate Reilly and Emmy Sharp. Hallgren and Powers rallied to win the second set, 21-18, to force a winner-take-all third set. The match was not without controversy when the Bruins trailed 13-12 after a shot by Stanford was called out by the down referee. But the top referee checked the mark and overturned the call to give Stanford triple match points at 14-11. The Cardinal would serve an ace on the next point to beat UCLA for the first time in program history.
UCLA returns to action today at 5:15 p.m. when they face the winner…
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