Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor
The No. 1 USC women's sand volleyball team is carrying a program-best 24-match win streak into the AVCA Collegiate Sand Volleyball National Championships this weekend in Gulf Shores, Ala. Having captured the last two pairs titles, the Women of Troy are now seeking their first-ever team national crown, and just four more match wins will get them there.
USC is looking to put an exclamation point on a season that featured 16 5-0 sweeps and saw two of its pairs reach 30 wins. The duo of Sara Hughes and Kelly Claes boast a 36-3 record entering this weekend, and Eve Ettinger and Meg Norton are close behind with a record of 30-5.
The team is coming off of its 2015 Pac-12 Invitational title weekend where it beat Arizona State (4-1) and No. 10 Arizona (5-0, 5-0) twice to seize the crown. Hughes and Claes, along with the pair of freshman Jenna Belton and senior Bria Russ, swept the Invitational's pairs championships to finish regular season play.
Amongst the eight-team field at the national championships this weekend is second-seeded Hawaii, Florida International, defending champion Pepperdine, Georgia State, Florida State, Long Beach State and top-seeded USC's first round opponent, Stetson.
The Trojans face the Hatters on Friday at 6 a.m. PT and the quarterfinal match will be played later that same day. The championship match is set for Saturday at 2 p.m. PT.
The pairs competition features the top duos from each of the schools in the team competition as well as 10 other teams regarded as the 'Best of the Rest' from schools not in the team competition. First-round pairs matches will start at 6 a.m. PT on Sunday with the championship match scheduled for 12 p.m. that same day.
Here are sophomores Sara Hughes, Nicolette Martin and Allie Wheeler with their own AVCA Championship preview...