Depth Key for UCLA As Bruins Go Undefeated in Hawai’i
It was unofficially dubbed the match of the year, even as it was still going, deep into the third set, well past the 15 points required to claim it. Nicole and Megan McNamara, UCLA’s court one leaders, the ones named Pac-12 Pair of the Year for 2018, were in a white-knuckler with Pepperdine’s Brook Bauer and Heidi Dyer who, at that point in the weekend, had made a strong argument for the best team throughout the Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Classic.
With the four other matches closed out, a natural crowd had formed around the court, which then spilled onto the sidewalk beyond, one layer piling onto the next. Side switches looked like color-coded migrations, with UCLA’s blue-and-white-clad Bruins swapping places every five points with Pepperdine’s bright orange Waves.
It was a thrilling display of excellent, high-level volleyball.
It also didn’t matter.
At least from a team perspective it didn’t. Individually, and from an overall entertainment view, the McNamara’s eventual 17-21, 24-22, 24-22 win over Bauer and Dyer mattered a whole lot. But record-wise, it didn’t matter because UCLA had long since sealed up the win. It was 5-0 regardless after taking victories on court two – from Sarah Sponcil and Lily Justine – court three – Zana Muno and Abby Van Winkle – and court five – Izzy Carey and Megan Muret. It didn’t matter because UCLA is just that deep, making the final match an exciting and highlight-filled but ultimately stress-free affair.
“It helps because, Sarah and I, we had a lot of games go three,” said Justine, who went 4-0 on the weekend, going to three sets in two of them. “And honestly, it just takes the pressure off you and you can feel good knowing that the other teams have your back and if you lose a set you’re like ‘Alright, I can come back and get this one, I know my teammates are killing it, so it’s going to be alright.’”
UCLA is the rare program that is seemingly unaffected when a lineup change is needed. When the McNamaras sat out on Saturday due to illness, and every team was bumped up a court, it didn’t show. Justine and Sponcil took care of business on court one, same as the rest of the Bruins all the way to Madi Yeomans and Lindsey Sparks on court five, making their first starts of 2019 with two straight-set wins and a point differential that was 46 points in their favor.
“Yeah, they’re deep,” Hawai’i junior Amy Ozee said.
Indeed, UCLA remains very much the team that won a national title in 2018, potentially even a significantly improved version. The Bruins withstood the best of both Hawai’i and Pepperdine, fending off three three-setters against the Bows, winning all of them in a 5-0 sweep that looks far more lopsided than it really was. A few hours later, they won courts two, three and five fast enough over the Waves to make the McNamara-Bauer-Dyer match little more than a scintillating exhibition.
“Certainly having that confidence to bring in basically anyone from our lineup and feeling like we can win with anybody is great,” UCLA coach Stein Metzger said. “I think the ability to train at a really high level is what gets me really excited.”
While UCLA can train at a level few, if any, other teams can, St. Mary’s hasn’t been training much at any level at all. Its program is indoor-based, with just a single player being beach-only. Not that it seemed to matter much during its noon matchup with Stanford, when the Gaels swept the No. 11 Cardinal in what could be considered the upset of the tournament.
“We’re really happy with how the team played,” St. Mary’s coach Rob Browning said. “Really happy about the direction we’re going. You don’t know, really, until you play some of these matches.”
The opening weekend is now officially over. Teams have a better sense of where and who they are. Individuals in new partnerships developed chemistry. Some new partnerships have already been broken down and fit into new ones.
“It’s a good measuring stick for sure,” said Hawai’i junior Morgan Martin, who went 2-2 with Ozee on the weekend, splitting between courts one and two. “You don’t want to be surprised in the middle of the season and figure out that you’re close but not there. I’d rather have it in the beginning so we can come back and return the favor.”
Pepperdine 5, St. Mary’s 0
Court 1: Pepperdine Brook Bauer, Heidi Dyer def. St. Mary’s Lindsey Knudsen, Sarah Chase 21-13, 21-12
Court 2: Pepperdine Gigi Hernandez, Deahna Kraft def. St. Mary’s Lindsey Calvin, Emily Bible 21-19, 21-12
Court 3: Pepperdine Skylar Caputo, Jenna Tunnell def. St. Mary’s Crash Parker, Sienna Young 21-17, 19-21, 15-9
Court 4: Pepperdine Alexis Filippone, Maddie Dilfer def. St. Mary’s Morgan Kendrick, Boo Laird 21-16, 21-17
Court 5: Pepperdine Katie Gavin, Nikki Lyons def. St. Mary’s Chandler Cowell, Selbie Christensen 21-15, 21-12
UCLA 5, Hawai’i 0
Court 1: UCLA Megan McNamara, Nicole McNamara def. Hawai’i Amy Ozee, Morgan Martin 21-17, 13-21, 15-6
Court 2: UCLA Sarah Sponcil, Lily Justine def. Hawai’i Emily Maglio, Hi’ilawe Huddleston 14-21, 22-20, 15-12
Court 3: UCLA Abby Van Winkle, Zana Muno def. Hawai’i Ari Homayun, Julia Scoles 21-13, 21-18
Court 4: UCLA Mac May, Savvy Simo def. Hawai’i Kylin Loker, Pani Napoleon 21-17, 21-18
Court 5: UCLA Izzy Carey, Megan Muret def. Hawai’i Paige Dreeuws, Jenna Banz 20-22, 21-17, 15-7
St. Mary’s 5, Stanford 0
Court 1: St. Mary’s Lindsey Knudsen, Sarah Chase def. Stanford Charlie Ekstrom, Sunny Villapando 21-13, 21-17
Court 2: St. Mary’s Emily Bible, Lindsey Calvin def. Stanford Courtney Bowen, Tori Ashkinos 21-16, 16-21, 15-4
Court 3: St. Mary’s Crash Parker, Sienna Young def. Stanford Morgan Hentz, Maddie Dailey 22-20, 21-16
Court 4: St. Mary’s Morgan Kendrick, Boo Laird def. Stanford Amelia Smith, Melissa Daniel 10-21, 21-13, 15-13
Court 5: St. Mary’s Chandler Cowell, Selbie Christensen def. Stanford Blake Sharp, Jordan McKinney 21-11, 13-21, 15-12.
UCLA 4, Pepperdine 1
Court 1: UCLA Nicole McNamara, Megan McNamara def. Pepperdine Brook Bauer, Heidi Dyer 17-21, 24-22, 24-22
Court 2: UCLA Sarah Sponcil, Lily Justine def. Pepperdine Skylar Caputo, Deahna Kraft 21-17, 21-15
Court 3: UCLA Zana Muno, Abby Van Winkle def. Pepperdine Gigi Hernandez, Jenna Tunnell 21-13, 21-11
Court 4: Pepperdine Alexis Filippone, Maddie Dilfer def. UCLA Mac May, Savvy Simo 21-19, 21-16
Court 5: UCLA Izzy Carey, Megan Muret def. Katie Gavin, Nikki Lyons 21-15, 21-17
Hawai’i 3, Stanford 2
Court 1: Stanford Sunny Villapando, Charlie Ekstrom def. Hawai’i Amy Ozee, Morgan Martin 21-19, 8-21, 20-18
Court 2: Stanford Courtney Bowen, Tori Ashkinos def. Hawai’i Emily Maglio, Hi’ilave Huddleston 16-21, 21-12, 15-9
Court 3: Hawai’i Ari Homayun, Julia Scoles def. Stanford Maddie Dailey, Morgan Hentz 21-9, 21-14
Court 4: Hawai’i Kylin Loker, Pani Napoleon def. Stanford Blake Sharp, Amelia Smith 21-18, 21-15
Court 5: Hawai’i Jenna Banz, Paige Dreeuws def. Stanford Melissa Daniel, Jordan McKinney 21-11, 21-7
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