No. 2 USC Hosts No. 1 Pepperdine
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March 24, 2014
LOS ANGELES - The second-ranked Women of Troy are looking for revenge when top-ranked Pepperdine visits Merle Norman Stadium for a 1-vs-2 matchup on Tuesday, March 25, at 5 p.m. PT. The Waves (7-0) won the first regular-season meeting between the two schools but the Trojans (7-1) are riding a program-best six-match winning streak and will have home-sand advantage this time.
Pepperdine, which won the inaugural sand volleyball championship in 2012 and was the 2013 runner-up behind Long Beach State holds an incredible 41-1 all-time mark. The Waves are one of three teams that have ever beaten USC on the sand and is the only team that the Trojans have previously faced but never beaten.
USC’s top pair of Kirby Burnham and Sara Hughes has reeled off seven straight victories and is 15-3 on the season. On court two, Kelly Claes and Alexa Strange have held the clinching point in four of the Trojans’ six consecutive victories and are 12-3 as a tandem. At No. 3, seniors Sam Hirschmann and Natasa Siljkovic, and at No. 4, juniors Eve Ettinger and Bria Russ have formed a solid core for the boiler room of USC’s lineup. At court five where the Trojans are 7-1 on the season, freshmen Nicolette Martin and Allie Wheeler have been produced four of the duo’s eight wins together.
On Thursday (March 27), USC will appear in the Pac-12 Networks’ first-ever live sand volleyball broadcasts. The Trojans and CSUN (0-7) will take the sand at 3 p.m. PT before USC and first-year Pac-12 program Oregon (1-4) meet for a second dual not before 4:30 p.m. PT. The broadcast will be distributed to a live national audience and feature Anne Marie Anderson on play-by-play with beach volleyball star Holly McPeak as the color commentary.
TRACK THE TROJANS: USC’s home matches will be webcast on the USCTrojans.com Pac-12 Networks portal page with former Northeastern player and Winthrop assistant coach Paul Duchesne calling the action. A complete schedule, with links to the live stream, is available on USCTrojans.com. Fans of the Women of Troy can also follow @USCSandVBall on Twitter for score updates. The Trojans are also active on Instagram (USCSandVBall) and on Facebook (USCSandVBall).
LAST TIME OUT: USC visited the islands where it went 3-0 with a 4-1 win over first-year program Arizona, a 3-2 win over host No. 3 Hawaii, and a 5-0 sweep of No. 8 Nebraska. The Trojans received crucial clinching points from court two where Alexa Strange and Kelly Claes held strong to knock off the Wildcats, and came back from dropping their first set against the Rainbow Wahine to provide USC with the win. The Women of Troy also put on a show in the Jack in the Box Rainbow Wahine Spring Challenge as all five of their teams advanced out of pool play to be seeded in the 16-team single-elimination championship bracket. USC put three pairs into the semifinals where Kirby Burnham and Sara Hughes prevailed to claim the tournament crown on their team-leading 15th victory as a duo.
OPPONENT SERIES RECORDS: USC and Pepperdine have met six times previously. The Waves have owned the all-time series with a 6-0 mark that includes two 5-0 wins and three 4-1 victories. USC last met Pepperdine on March 8 to open the season in Malibu, Calif., but fell, 5-0. The Trojans and first-year program Cal State Northridge met to open the season (March 8). USC won, 5-0. First-year program Oregon will meet the Trojans on the sand for the first time.
ALL-AMERICAN NATIONAL CHAMPIONS: Senior Kirby Burnham teamed with Stevi Robinson to produce a 25-4 record as a pair in 2013. The tandem won their last eight consecutive matches including four at the AVCA pairs championships on May 5, 2013, to claim USC’s first-ever individual championship in sand volleyball. They were each later named the first-ever sand volleyball All-Americans in USC history.
A HEART FOR ART: Junior Alexa Stonish is a fine arts major at USC’s famed Roski School of Art and Design. She emphasizes and is an enthusiast in photography. Some of Stonish’s work has been featured in the Artletics on-campus exhibit that displays the works of USC student-athletes.
IN HER BLOOD: Freshman Sevana Dvorak comes from some esteemed volleyball bloodlines. Her father, Rudy Dvorak, was an All-American setter at USC in 1986 and led the Trojans to the 1985 and 1986 NCAA Final Four as an all-tournament selection each year. He went on later to have a successful pro beach career. Sevena’s uncle Dusty Dvorak was a two-time All-American setter at USC (1979-80) who led Troy to the 1977 and 1980 NCAA titles before he guided the U.S. to a gold medal at the 1984 Olympics. He is regarded as America’s greatest men’s volleyball setter and is a member of the USAV and USC Athletics Hall of Fames. Her aunt Deidra Dvorak played at Stanford and in Europe, while another uncle Drake Dvorak played at San Diego State.
CHILDREN OF THE CORN: USC’s sophomore class of Alexa Strange and Lauren Sieckmann were each Nebraska Cornhuskers previously. Strange is a Southern California native (San Clemente, Calif.) and joins the Women of Troy following a successful spring at Nebraska where she was part of the No. 1 pair with Kelsey Robinson. Strange has extensive international sand experience and was also a member of the Cornhuskers’ indoor volleyball team. Sieckmann, who is from Omaha, Neb., committed to the Cornhuskers as one of the top players in the nation and left high school early to participate in spring drills with the team in 2012. By the spring of 2013, she had played a fall of indoor volleyball at NCAA DII Wayne State College, and was playing sand volleyball exclusively at Pepperdine. Sieckmann enrolled at USC in the fall of 2013 and must sit out the 2013-14 season per NCAA transfer rules.
CONVERSION FACTORS: The Women of Troy have benefitted from the conversion of several former indoor volleyball stars. Natasa Siljkovic completed her indoor career as a middle blocker in the fall of 2012 and stepped foot onto a sand court for the first time in 2013. She played at courts three, four, and five and produced 15 wins for the Trojans. As a graduate student, Siljkovic is expected to contribute mightily from court three this season. Junior Bria Russ was a mainstay at USC’s top two courts in 2013, her first season on the sand after she appeared in 26 matches for the USC indoor team as a freshman. All-American Kirby Burnham, Sam Hirschmann, and Eve Ettinger are each also former member’s of USC’s indoor squad. Graduate Mary Buckingham lettered for California’s indoor team in 2009.
RECRUITING CLASS: The Trojans signed one of the top recruiting classes in the country for the 2013-14 season. Regarded as one of the top indoor setters in the nation, Sara Hughes (Mater Dei HS/Santa Ana, Calif.) announced she would focus solely on sand volleyball making her the top sand volleyball recruit in the nation. Hughes was a Fab 50 selection and claimed a plethora of individual accolades on the indoor court. She also arrives at USC with a wealth of experience on the beach as winner of tournaments and championships from 2011-13. Allie Wheeler (Archbishop Mitty HS/San Jose, Calif.) led her school to a 34-0 mark and the 2012 CIF Central Coast championship as a senior and was a member of the USAV High Performance Beach U19 program.
PROM DATE: Freshman Kelly Claes should be shopping for prom dresses. Instead, she will play a key role in the Trojans’ 2014 season. Claes completed high school graduation requirements a semester early and left El Dorado HS to join the Women of Troy. She was named to the Volleyball Magazine Girls Fab 50 and is the only player on the list that will play sand volleyball exclusively at the collegiate level. With her arrival, the Trojans signed the top sand volleyball recruit in consecutive years. USC signed top sand recruit Sara Hughes in 2013.
STAFF INFECTION: With the addition three-time Olympic beach volleyball gold medalist Misty May-Treanor, the Trojans boast one of the most broadly experienced coaching staffs in the nation. May-Treanor formerly was an assistant coach at her alma mater Long Beach State before she joined one of her mentors Anna Collier on the Trojan staff. Fuller is a former Virginia Tech player who also coaches a pro beach pair. Each assistant brings great depth to the Trojans’ ability to run drills and develop skills in addition to some valuable experience on the international level.
USC ALUMS ON THE BEACH: USC women’s volleyball players have shined on the pro beach world circuit, both internationally and domestically. Some of the top Women of Troy stars have included 2012 London Olympic silver medalists April Ross and Jennifer Kessy (winners of 24 tournaments, including the 2009 FIVB World Championship); Tracy Lindquist (12-year pro); Geena Urango, Jessica Gysin, and Keao Burdine (young beach stars); Bibiana Candelas (indoor All-American who won the first-ever Collegiate Nationals Beach Championship in 2006); Paula Weishoff (an indoor Olympian and Volleyball Hall of Fame inductee); and Miki McFadden (indoor Olympian). The USC men also have a strong tradition including such pro tourney winners as Tim Hovland, Adam Johnson, Pat Powers, Steve Timmons, Steve Obradovich, and Ron Lang.