No. 1 USC Closes Regular Season in the Desert
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April 23, 2014
LOS ANGELES - The No. 1-ranked USC women’s sand volleyball team (20-1) completes the 2014 regular season with a pair of duals in the desert this weekend. The Women of Troy will take on Arizona (7-10) and Boise State (4-3) at the Arizona Sand Volleyball Courts in Tucson, Ariz., on Saturday, April 26. The Trojans and the Wildcats will meet for the second time in Arizona’s inaugural season at 9 a.m. PT and then USC takes on the first-year Broncos at 11 a.m.
The Trojans are on a 19-match winning streak and were awarded the top seed in the upcoming AVCA Collegiate Sand Volleyball National Championship set to be played in Gulf Shores, Ala., May 2-4. The Women of Troy have completed the 5-0 sweep in 15 of their victories this season. In fact, the 19-match streak is the longest in program history and encompasses more wins than the Trojans had in 2013.
USC claimed three sweeps at the first-ever Pac-12 Invitational last weekend. Its top pair of senior Kirby Burnham and freshman Sara Hughes won their fourth pairs title this season and ran their winning streak to 26 straight victories as they became the first Trojan pair ever to cross the 30-win plateau.
Freshman Kelly Claes and sophomore Alexa Strange are just a shade behind Burnham-Hughes with a 29-5 record together including an impressive 18-2 mark at the No. 2 spot in duals. Court three resident seniors Sam Hirschmann and Natasa Siljkovic are 21-9 overall while juniors Eve Ettinger and Bria Russ are 24-6 as the Trojans’ regular No. 4 spot holders. USC’s impressive freshman tandem of Nicolette Martin and Allie Wheeler is 13-1 at court five with a 20-5 record overall.
USC’s trip to the desert will mark the first time that it will play matches in the Copper State. It is only the fifth different state that the Trojans will play in. Previously, the Women of Troy have played in their home state of California, Alabama for the AVCA Championships, Florida in 2012, and Hawaii for a tournament this spring. The Trojans are 5-5 all-time in true road matches but have incentive to maintain their run to the 2014 championships with a winning streak intact. The longest streak in the history of the sport is 34 matches and belongs to Pepperdine.
AVCA CHAMPIONSHIPS: USC will hold the top seed in the 2014 AVCA Collegiate Sand Volleyball National Championships set to take place in Gulf Shores, Ala., May 2-4. The Women of Troy get a first-round bye and face the winner of a match between fourth-seeded Hawaii (18-3) and fifth-seeded Florida International (14-2) on Friday, May 2, at noon CT. It is the Trojans’ second straight team bid to the championships. In the inaugural sand volleyball championships, USC sent two pairs to the individual tournament. In 2013, the Women of Troy earned their first team entry into the event as the fourth seed and finished as a semifinalist. Third-seeded Florida State (16-1) and sixth-seeded Stetson (18-4) will play in the first round with the winner advancing to meet second-seeded Pepperdine (15-1) at 1 p.m. CT on May 2. Semifinals are set for 11 a.m. and noon CT on May 3 with the championship match to be played at 3:30 p.m., and taped for broadcast on CBS Sports Network.
BEACH STREAKERS: USC’s 19-match dual winning streak is the program’s longest. The longest in the history of the sport is 34 straight and belongs to Pepperdine, which went 14-0 in its inaugural season (2012) and then went 20-0 before falling in the 2013 championship match. The Trojans’ tandem of Kirby Burnham and Sara Hughes own a 26-match pairs winning streak which is the longest in program history. Kelly Claes and Alexa Strange had a streak of 17 straight matches that spanned from March 27 through April 20 and was snapped only by Burnham and Hughes. Eve Ettinger and Bria Russ had a 10-match streak from March 25 through April 13.
TRACK THE TROJANS: Fans of the Women of Troy can follow @USCSandVBall on Twitter for score updates during home matches and select road matches. The Trojans are also active on Instagram (USCSandVBall) and on Facebook (USCSandVBall).
LAST TIME OUT: USC hosted and won the first-ever Pac-12 Invitational at the Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, Calif. The Trojans defeated Bakersfield, Arizona State, and Loyola Marymount in 5-0 sweeps to claim the title and extend their program-long winning streak to 19 consecutive duals. The three sweeps helped give USC 15 dual shutouts this season. In the pairs competition, senior Kirby Burnham and freshman Sara Hughes collected their 26th straight victory as a tandem and became the first Trojan tandem to cross the 30-win plateau in school history. USC’s Kelly Claes and Alexa Strange advanced to the semifinals while Eve Ettinger and Bria Russ advanced to the quarterfinals.
OPPONENT SERIES RECORDS: The Trojans will face first-year program Arizona for the second time this season. USC claimed a 4-1 win over the Wildcats in a neutral meeting at Queen’s Beach in Honolulu, Hawai’i, on March 19. USC and Boise State will meet for the first time.
COMBO NO. 21: The Women of Troy have played in 21 different pairings this season. Trojan tandems have produced a 93-12 mark in duals with a 153-38 record overall. USC’s most successful pair is Kirby Burnham and Sara Hughes, which holds a 34-3 record overall with a 17-3 mark in duals at the top court.
FIVE ON IT: USC has experienced the most success in dual matches at court five where pairs have racked up a 20-1 record in 21 duals. The Trojans’ resident duo at court five is the combo of freshmen Nicolette Martin and Allie Wheeler who have put together a 13-1 record there.
POLL POSITION: The Women of Troy opened the season ranked No. 2 behind just Pepperdine. Following a 4-1 win over the Waves on March 25, USC moved up to the No. 1 spot for the first time in program history, a ranking it has held for each of the last four weeks. In 2013, USC started the season ranked third and finished in fourth.
TOURNAMENT WINNERS: USC tandem Kirby Burnham and Sara Hughes has won four individual tournaments this season. The duo went 4-0 and defeated three pairs from Florida State en route to claiming the USC Tournament title on March 15. They then went 6-0 to win the Jack in the Box Rainbow Wahine Spring Challenge in Honolulu, Hawaii on March 22. Burnham and Hughes claimed the Gold Bracket title at the USAV Beach Collegiate Challenge in Hermosa Beach on April 13 and then won the inaugural Pac-12 Invitational title with four wins on April 20. The two hold a 17-0 mark in tournaments as a pair. The Trojans’ team of Kelly Claes and Alexa Strange won the Silver Bracket at the USAV Collegiate Challenge and are 11-3 in pairs tourneys.
TROJANS IN TV LAND: Each of USC’s home matches this season were webcast on the USCTrojans.com Pac-12 Networks portal page with former Northeastern player and Winthrop assistant coach Paul Duchesne calling the action. The Pac-12 Networks carried duals on March 27 and April 3 to a live national audience with Anne Marie Anderson and Holly McPeak on the call. The Trojans appeared in the first-ever live broadcast of a women’s collegiate dual match on Thursday, March 27, when USC faced Cal State Northridge.
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.
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.
2013 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.
LAST SEASON: USC went 16-8 in its second year. All eight of the Trojans losses were to one of three teams: Florida State once, Pepperdine three times, and Long Beach State four times. Four of USC’s losses were by a 3-2 margin and came down to the final points in the third set of the deciding pairs matchup. The Trojans finished with a 7-3 mark at home in the newly opened Merle Norman Stadium and were given their first team bid to the AVCA championships. USC defeated North Florida in the opening round but lost to Pepperdine in the next matchup. The Trojans came back to defeat Louisiana-Monroe to reach the national semifinals before falling to national champion Long Beach State, 3-2, in the semifinal match. Kirby Burnham and Stevi Robinson completed an eight-match winning streak to claim the pairs championship and became USC’s first-ever sand volleyball All-Americans.
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.
LOOKING AHEAD: The Women of Troy will close their third season as the top seed in the 2014 AVCA Collegiate Sand Volleyball National Championship on May 2-4 in Gulf Shores, Ala.