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UCLA to Open Beach Volleyball Campaign at No. 2

Jan 29, 2021
Savvy Simo (11) is one of two graduate students on the roster and the only senior returning from the 2020 season.

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LOS ANGELES -- The UCLA Bruins are ranked No. 2 in the AVCA Collegiate Beach Volleyball Poll that was released earlier this week. The back-to-back defending NCAA Champions received two first-place votes and ranked behind No. 1 LSU, with 12 first-place votes. Florida State ranked third while USC came in fourth, earning the remaining two first-place votes. Hawai'i rounded out the top five.

The Bruins return eight of 10 starters from last year's COVID-shortened season that saw UCLA end the year at No. 2 in the nation with an overall record of 13-2. Both of the Bruins' losses were 3-2 to No. 1 LSU. UCLA also had a 4-1 win over the Tigers in the opening week of the 2020 schedule. However, the Bruins only return four of 10 starters on the five courts from 2019's NCAA title team that went 35-3.

Those four starters are senior Savvy Simo, junior Lea Monkhouse, and sophomores Lindsey Sparks and Abby Van Winkle. UCLA also only returns two starters from the 2018 championship team that went 40-4, which includes junior Megan Muret along with Simo.

UCLA won the 2019 NCAA Championship as the No. 2 seed by defeating No. 7 Hawai'i 3-2 in the opening round. After that wake-up call, UCLA cruised to its second-straight national title with 3-0 victories over No. 3 Florida State, No. 5 LSU and No. 1 USC (didn't drop a set to the Trojans).

The Bruins return their court one duo of Simo and Abby Van Winkle from 2020 that went 13-2 a year ago (all on court one). Court two also remains intact and consisted of freshman Lexy Denaburg and Sparks, who went 10-3 last year (9-3 on court two). While court three lost senior Lily Justine (2020 NCAA Today's Top 10 Award winner) to graduation, it returns junior Lea Monkhouse. She and Justine went 10-4 a year ago (9-3 on court three). While court four featured seven different pairs in the 15 duals last year, the pair that was on it the most returns in 2021. That tandem is freshmen Devon Newberry and Rileigh Powers, which went 3-3 on the year (all on court four). The final court also saw seven different duos, but mainly featured Muret and Mac May (graduated). May and Muret went 5-1 on court five last year. Muret went 10-1 on court five on the year.

The Bruins also had a busy off-season, hiring a new volunteer coach in beach volleyball legend Jose Loiola. The Bruins also signed four players that will all debut in 2021. That class includes Peri Brennan (Laguna Beach, Calif./Laguna Beach HS), Caitlyn Kyle (Hermosa Beach, Calif./Redondo Union HS), Sophie Swett (San Anselmo, Calif./Branson HS), and Tessa Van Winkle (San Clemente, Calif./San Clemente HS).

UCLA also returns its first-ever NCAA graduate transfer in Jacqueline Quade, a two-time indoor All-American at the University of Illinois. Quade went 4-0 with three different partners last year and also went 5-0 in exhibition matches (all on court six with redshirt sophomore Cami Sanchez). The Bruins also return two student-athletes that went undefeated a year ago. Redshirt sophomore Hannah Phair (2-0 on court four) and redshirt freshman Jaden Whitmarsh (3-0 overall, 2-0 on court four and 1-0 on court three) also return this season and look to crack the starting lineup.

More information, including the 2021 schedule, will be released at a later date.

AVCA COLLEGIATE BEACH VOLLEYBALL PRESEASON POLL (Jan. 27, 2021)

Rank School (First place votes) 2020 Rank
1 LSU (12) 1
2 UCLA (2) 2
3 Florida State 3
4 Southern California (2) 6
5 Hawaii 4
6 Cal Poly 5
7 Grand Canyon 7
8 Loyola Marymount 8
9 California 9
10 Pepperdine 10
11 Stetson 11
12 Florida Atlantic 12
13 Florida International 13
14 South Carolina 14
15 TCU 15
16 Long Beach State 16
17 Arizona 17
18 Georgia State 18
19 Stanford 19
20 Arizona State 20

Others receiving votes: Tulane, Coastal Carolina, North Florida

Next Poll: March 2