Cleat Geeks

UCLA Bruins Win 2018 NCAA Women’s Beach Volleyball Championship Tournament

Game 13 between the UCLA Bruins vs. the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors was a nail-biter

UCLA #5 Zana Muno and Hawaii #11 Carly Kan. Photo by Michael Hanich of cleatgeeks.com.

With only three teams left in the 2018 NCAA Women’s Collegiate Beach Volleyball National Championship Tournament, one more semi-final game would’ve needed be played to decide who will be playing the #4 seeded Florida State Seminoles in the National Championship game. The #1 UCLA Bruins and the #3 seeded Hawaii Rainbow Warriors came into this tournament as two of the most complete teams in the sport of collegiate Beach Volleyball. UCLA’s 1’s pair in twins Megan and Nicole McNamara and 5’s pair in Izzy Carter and Megan Muret quickly took the duels on court 1 and 5. The Rainbow Warriors’ 3’s pair in Carly Kan and Laurel Weaver and 4’s pair Amy Ozee and Ari Homayun took the duels on court 3 and 4.

UCLA #30 Izzy Carter and #15 Megan Muret & Hawaii #13 Hannah Zalopany and #12 Paige Dreeuws. Photo by; Michael Hanich of cleatgeeks.com.

It was on court #2 where the game came down to the wire but not before becoming one of the longest matches in the whole tournament. Flight #2 between Hawaii’s Morgan Martin and Lea Monkhouse and UCLA’s Lily Justine and Sarah Sponcil accounted for a total duration of 70 minutes due to the high-intensity playmaking from the players and the strategic coaching of both teams. The difference was the kill percentage between the two pairs. Even though Martin and Monkhouse of Hawaii had a higher kill percentage than UCLA’s Justine and Sponcil (29.5% to 26.7%), they also had 21 more attacking attempts (122 to 101). It was the efficiency of those shots that were important. Composure was also very important as the Bruins’ pair only accounted for 12 errors (both serving and attacking) to Hawaii’s 17 total errors. The Bruins’ Justine and Sponcil wore out the Rainbow Warriors pair as they took the final set 15-11 to claim the duel and finally giving UCLA the 3-2 victory. This put the UCLA Bruins in the National Championship game against the #4 seeded Florid State Seminoles, who got into the Title game with a victory over Hawaii the day before.

 

UCLA Bruins beats Florida State Seminoles in the title game; dethrones rivals USC

In the National Championship game set, both the team’s 4’s and 5’s pair face each other on the two main courts while the top 3 pairs wait for a final on both courts. After a hot start from the Seminoles from pairs 4 and 5, the Bruins came back out of their horrible first set loss more focused and efficient in their decision making. Despite a comeback from the Bruins’ pair 4 in Elise Zappia and Mac May, the Seminoles’ pair 4 in Molly McBain and Brooke Kuhlman took the first duel by accounting for a 6.9% better kill percentage (32.4% to 25.5%). UCLA’s pair 5 had a comeback and took duel #5 by outscoring the Seminoles 15-8 in the 3rd and final set.

UCLA #31 Megan McNamara and #13 Nicole McNarama & Florida State #25 Victoria Paranagua and #12 Victoria Freire. Photo by; Michael Hanich of cleatgeeks.com.

Once the Bruins and Seminoles sent out their 1st, 2nd, and 3rd pairs onto the court, the Bruins took control and never looked back. It only took 36 minutes and a 21-9 score in the 2nd and final set for the UCLA’s 3rd pair in Zana Muno and Savvy Simo to take duel #3 to grab a 2-1 score in the Championship match. UCLA’s pair #2 in Lily Justine and Sarah Sponcil got the duel win on court #2 in only 2 sets thus clinching the National Championship title. Court 1 with UCLA’s twins in Megan and Nicole McNamara were also able to win the duel until Lily Justine came through with the final kill shot on court 2 that won the Championship. The McNamara twins accounted for a 7.8% kill percentage (29.3% to 21.5%) than the Seminoles pair 1 in Vanessa Freire and Victoria Paranagua.

This is the first time in the NCAA Women’s Beach Volleyball Tournament history that a team from the elimination bracket has won the National Title. The UCLA Bruins are also the 2nd team ever in tournament history to claim the National title. Their rivals in the USC Trojans have claimed the first two ever NCAA title in 2016 as well as last year. The West region, specifically the PAC-12, continues to make a dominant reign in the sport of Women’s Collegiate Beach Volleyball with UCLA claiming their first title in program history.

 

Bruins become early favorites to repeat as National Champions for next year’s tournament

UCLA #4 Sarah Sponcil and #2 Lily Justine. Photo by; Michael Hanich of cleatgeeks.com.

Even though the 2018 NCAA National Championship tournament has just concluded, the UCLA Bruins are favorites to repeat next year as champions of the sport with almost all of their players coming back. Only Elise Zappia (from pair 4) has finished her career with the UCLA Bruins as she will be graduating as a senior. All other players and participants of the 2018 Championship Bruins team are expected to come back for the team next season. Megan and Nicole McNamara will be seniors next season and will be two of the biggest players in the sport of Beach Volleyball next season as they were named PAC-12 Beach Volleyball All-Tournament Team.

At the conclusion of the Championship tournament, the McNamara twins were voted as the top court 1 pair of the entire tournament. UCLA also had Izzy Carey and Megan Muret named PAC-12 Beach Volleyball All-Tournament Team as well as court 5 Championship All-Tournament Team. The UCLA Bruins were the only team in the entire that had multiple pairs named as a part of the Championship All-Tournament Team. The Florida State Seminoles’ 2’s pair in Katie Horton and Hailey Luke were named as the Tournament’s best #2 pair. The Hawaii Rainbow Warriors’ 3’s pair in Carly Kan and Laurel Weaver were named as the Tournament’s best #3 pair. Finally, the Pepperdine Waves’ 4’s pair in Skylar Caputo and Alexis Filippone was named as the Tournament’s best #4 pair.

 

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