No. 1 USC Seeks First Sand Volleyball Crown|
Follow, Like, and Insta with @USCSandVBall
April 27, 2015
2015 AVCA COLLEGIATE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
Match #25 · AVCA First Round
LOS ANGELES - The top-ranked USC women's sand volleyball team (24-0) returns to Gulf Shores, Ala., this week (May 1-3), for the 2015 AVCA Collegiate Sand Volleyball National Championships. The Women of Troy make their third consecutive team appearance and seek the program's first-ever national crown. USC tandems have won each of the last two pairs titles: Sara Hughes and Kirby Burnham (2014), and Burnham and Stevi Robinson (2013).
The Trojans were awarded the top seed among the eight-team field, which includes second-seeded Hawai'i (15-1), third-seeded Florida International (18-1), fourth-seeded Pepperdine (10-4), fifth-seeded Georgia State (18-1), sixth-seeded Florida State (13-4), seventh-seeded Long Beach State (13-4), and USC's first-round opponent eighth-seeded Stetson (21-4).
USC's postseason run begins on Friday, May 1, at 8 a.m. CT (6 a.m. PT). The Trojans carry a program-best winning streak of 24 matches into the championships and are the top-seeded team for the second straight year. Pepperdine returns to the field as the defending champion and was also the first title winner in 2012. Long Beach State won the championship in 2013.
The team championship is held Friday and Saturday, May 1-2. The championship match is scheduled for Saturday at 4 p.m. CT (2 p.m. PT). The pairs' field includes the top duos from the schools in the team competition as well as 10 teams identified as the `Best of the Rest' from schools not in the team competition. Pairs were selected from Loyola Marymount, Louisiana-Monroe, LSU, Arizona, UAB, Grand Canyon, Tulane, College of Charleston, and UCLA. First-round matches in the pairs' championship will start at 8 a.m. CT on Sunday, May 3, with the championship match later that day slated to begin at 2 p.m. CT.
Of the Trojans' 24 wins, 16 have been 5-0 sweeps. Two of USC's starting five pairs has reached 30 wins this season: Hughes and Kelly Claes at the top court (36-3) and Eve Ettinger and Meg Norton (30-5) at court three. The other three pairs are on the cusp of reaching 30. Sophie Bukovec and Alexa Strange have 29 wins at No. 2; Nicolette Martin and Allie Wheeler are 28-5 at No. 4; and Jenne Belton and Bria Russ are 27-4 at court five.
LAST TIME OUT: The Women of Troy set a new program record with their 24th straight dual victory as they captured the 2015 Pac-12 Invitational title. The Trojans beat Arizona State (4-1) and No. 10-ranked Arizona (5-0, 5-0) twice to win the crown. Sophomores Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes won the pairs title in the gold bracket while senior Bria Russ and freshman Jenna Belton teamed to win the pairs title in the silver bracket. Seniors Eve Ettinger and Meg Norton became the second Trojan pair (behind Claes/Hughes) to reach the 30-win mark on the season. The two finished in the semifinals of the gold bracket pairs' championship and completed the weekend at 30-5 this season.
SCOUTING REPORT: USC has faced Stetson (21-4) twice in the program's first three seasons. The Trojans and the Hatters met in loser's bracket of the 2014 AVCA championships. USC won, 4-1, to knock Stetson out of the competition. The teams also met once 2013: a 5-0 win for the Trojans in their inaugural season. The Hatters won the Atlantic Sun Conference and suffered just four dual losses this season (Florida State, Florida International, Georgia State, Mercer). Julie Bassett and Kaley Melville occupy the Hatters' top lineup spot and have produced a 26-3 overall record. Kristin Lind and Maren Rygh hold court at the No. 2 position with a 23-1 dual mark (29-1 overall). Before she transferred to USC, senior Alexa Stonish played her first collegiate sand volleyball season at Stetson in 2012 and produced a 16-14 overall record.
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).
FLIRTY WITH THIRTY: Before this season, only two Trojan pairs had ever crossed the 30-win plateau in USC's four years as a program. Now, all five of the Trojans' pairs could reach the mark this week. Sara Hughes and Kelly Claes are 36-3 this season. Hughes and Kirby Burnham teamed to become the first pair to reach 30 wins in 2014 and finished with a 42-4 record en route to the AVCA crown. Claes and Alexa Strange were the second Trojan duo to break the 30-win mark and finished at 33-7 last season with an appearance in the AVCA pairs championship.