Sand Volleyball
    USC Hosts Loyola Marymount In Historic First-Ever Women's Sand Volleyball Match
    Head coach Anna Collier and team.
    Head coach Anna Collier and team.

    March 8, 2012

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    History will be made on Saturday (March 10) when the USC women's sand volleyball team competes in its first-ever dual match in the new NCAA-sponsored sport as it hosts Loyola Marymount at 10 a.m. at Santa Monica's Annenberg Community Beach House.

    There will be five matches between pairs in the morning's team competition, while the afternoon will feature bracket play beginning at noon to crown a pairs champion. All matches will be rally scoring best-of-three sets.

    "This is an exciting and historic time at USC, particularly for our women's sports program, and for the sport of sand volleyball," said USC head coach Anna Collier, a former USC student-athlete and pro beach player who has coached teams in a pair of Olympics and at numerous world championships. "Our players can't wait to get the season going.

    "Sand volleyball is about to explode in this country. Our goal is to build one of the signature women's sand volleyball programs in the nation. We will be extremely competitive this year. As long as we execute the skills required in sand volleyball, we can compete with­--and beat­--any school in the nation."

    Most of USC's 2012 sand roster comes from the Women of Troy indoor team, which has advanced to the NCAA Final Four the past two seasons.

    Geena Urango, competing as a graduate student, received USC's first scholarship in women's sand volleyball and captains the 2012 team. As a 5-10 defensive specialist and outside hitter, she appeared in 126 indoor matches for the Women of Troy in her four-year (2007-10) career.

    A pair of 2011 All-American first team indoor players at USC­--senior Kendall Bateman and sophomore Natalie Hagglund­--are playing on the sand this spring. The 5-11 Bateman started the past 3 seasons at setter and established USC's career assists record. The 5-9 Hagglund has been the Women of Troy's starting libero the past two years and is an experienced sand player (she was part of the youngest team ever to qualify for the main draw of the AVP Manhattan Beach Open).

    Two starting outside hitters on USC's indoor team joined the sand squad: 6-2 junior Katie Fuller (a 2-year starter) and 6-2 sophomore Sara Shaw (a 2011 starter).

    Also coming over from the indoor Women of Troy are sophs Kirby Burnham (a 6-2 backup outside hitter the last two seasons) and Sam Hirschmann (a 5-10 reserve outside hitter the past two years who redshirted in 2011) and freshmen Emily Young (a 6-2 backup opposite hitter in 2011) and Eve Ettinger (she redshirted in 2011 as a 6-2 middle blocker).

    Kelly Irvin, a 5-9 grad student, was Virginia's starting setter in 2007 and 2008 and then transferred to USC as a backup. She is an accomplished sand player, as she was the 2005 and 2006 AAU Beach Player of the Year.

    Like Irvin, 5-11 Megan Thornberry began her career elsewhere before coming to USC. She was Wake Forest's starting libero for four seasons (2007-10) and is now a grad student at Troy.

    Also on USC's roster are 5-10 sophomore Erin Kaupp and 5-6 freshman Kati Duddridge.

    Loyola Marymount, coached by former USC men's volleyball assistant Tom Black, is made up of players from its indoor team that went 14-16 in 2011. Among the Lions competing in the sand are 5-10 sophomore libero Betsi Metter, the 2011 West Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Year, and 6-1 freshman middle blocker Litara Kiel, who made the 2011 WCC All-Freshman team.

    USC is among 20 schools fielding a women's sand volleyball team in 2012 as the sport begins its inaugural season as an NCAA emerging sport. The sport has 10 years to get at least 40 schools to sponsor sand volleyball for two consecutive years and thereby become established as an NCAA championship sport, otherwise the NCAA will conduct a reclassification review of the sport.