UCLA's beach volleyball team was aiming for title until coronavirus ended season

Stein Metzger noted that the precautions were taken early. Instead of post-match handshakes, UCLA beach volleyball players offered fist bumps. Hand sanitizer became as common as bottled water. Special attention had to be paid to traveling.

But even those signs did not feel like a foreshadowing for the two days that months of preparation had cleared.

UCLA’s hopes for a third national title in a row ended suddenly on March 12 when the NCAA canceled its winter and spring championships during the coronavirus outbreak. The No. 2 Bruins had the chance to break a tie with USC for the most national titles in the five years since beach volleyball became an NCAA-sanctioned sport.

UCLA remained a champion contender this season, despite losing five out of ten starters, a senior class who has guided the program since childhood when players were still driving to Santa Monica to practice.

Now, the Bruins are enjoying a $ 1 million renovation of Mapes Beach on campus. With four total courts, the facility is a perfect place for the Bruins to honor last year’s graduation class that continues to influence the program.

“They established a training culture that everyone equated when they showed up, so because of that training culture, many athletes knew what to aim for, they knew what the standard was,” said Metzger, the only head coach in program history. “If you see it, you can go after it.”

The NCAA’s decision was crushing, Metzger said, and even in the days since the announcement, the coach still felt disappointment and confusion among his athletes. They were unsure what to do next. They wanted to find ways to stay positive even when separated from their teammates. Text messages and FaceTime calls helped keep the situation calm.

“I couldn’t imagine not having it at the moment,” Metzger said of the technology.

Metzger’s hope, as his team is just beginning to show steady progress, is to find ways to coach remotely, if allowed by the NCAA. Maybe he can send in exercises and give feedback through tutorial videos, because even if matches are canceled, Metzger hopes his players will be able to keep up with the recent progress that the Bruins (13-2) has kept on a winning streak of six games to finish the year Close.

UCLA beach volleyball coach Stein Metzger speaks to his players.

(Han Duong)

UCLA’s number 1 pair with senior Savvy Simo and junior Abby Van Winkle shone through the run. When Metzger assembled the duo at the beginning of the year to replace the All-Americans of the first team Megan and Nicole McNamara, the coach was concerned that the 6-foot-2 Van Winkle, who stepped out of field 3, would not are physically in the net against top teams.

A dominant six-game winning streak proved the pair’s potential.

After losing in straight sets to No. 1 Louisiana State – the only team to beat the Bruins this season – Simo and Van Winkle are beating six consecutive straight-set wins.

During the Pac-12 South tournament, Simo and Van Winkle won four games and allowed their opponent to score 18 points in a set in just one of eight chances. They were selected for the Pac-12 pair of the week, their second weekly prize of the season and the last to award the conference before the abrupt end of the season.

Metzger said he will “make every effort” to keep the duo together next year. Simo may qualify for an additional year if she attends UCLA graduate school or adds a minor.

“You never know what can happen in this crazy world,” Simo wrote on Instagram after the season was canceled. “I never thought that my senior season would be canceled because of something I couldn’t control at all. This year has been extremely difficult physically, mentally and emotionally so far and all we can do is lean on and stick together. ‘

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