No. 1 Trojan Sand Volleyball Carries Streak Into April|
Follow, Like, and Insta with @USCSandVBall
March 31, 2015
LOS ANGELES - The top-ranked USC sand volleyball team (12-0) carries an unblemished record into April and starts the month with three duals this weekend. The Women of Troy host No. 9 Loyola Marymount (2-6) and Concordia Irvine for a pair of matches on Thursday (April 2) at 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. PT. Both will be broadcast live on the Pac-12 Networks. The Trojans will then face No. 3-ranked Pepperdine (7-3) at Zuma Beach in Malibu, Calif., at 10 a.m. on Saturday (April 4).
USC played six duals in a five-day span last week, and will finally have something of a respite before it faces the Lions, Eagles, and Waves. Despite the packed schedule, the Trojans pushed through and produced a 6-0 record to extend their program-best start to the season. Through 12 duals, USC has produced a 55-5 mark in individual matches. The Trojans remain undefeated at the No. 3 position where seniors Eve Ettinger and Meg Norton are 12-0 with five dual-winning points (16-2 overall). Two pairs have occupied the No. 5 spot. Neither the tandem of freshman Jenna Belton and senior Bria Russ (8-0) or the combo of freshman Jo Kremer and Russ (4-0) has dropped a match there.
The Trojans' top two pairs have remained the same. At the top, sophomores Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes are 10-2 (19-2 overall) and at No. 2, sophomore Sophie Bukovec and junior Alexa Strange are also 10-2 (14-4 overall). At position four, sophomores Nicolette Martin and Allie Wheeler are 9-1 together.
LAST TIME OUT: The Women of Troy went 6-0 through a grueling five-day span. USC started out with a 3-2 win over No. 3-ranked Pepperdine, which saw three matches go to three sets. Eve Ettinger and Meg Norton delivered the winning point at court three after the Waves won at the Nos. 1 and 2 positions to come back from a 2-0 deficit. The Trojans also claimed a pair of 5-0 home wins over Bakersfield and Saint Mary's College. USC then went to Phoenix where it earned a 4-1 win over first-year program New Mexico, and then took out Grand Canyon in a 5-0 sweep. The Trojans played a Saturday-afternoon matinee against Arizona State and topped the week off with a fourth 5-0 victory.
SCOUTING REPORT: No. 9-ranked Loyola Marymount (2-6) started the season ranked No. 6, but has fallen short of expectations with six losses to just two wins. The two victories were 4-1 decisions over Bakersfield and Pacific. Five of the Lions' six losses have been 4-1 shortfalls. LMU's other loss was a 3-2 final against Florida State. At the top court, Betsi Metter and Sara Sponcil are 7-1 with a 13-3 overall record, which includes a win over USC's Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes. The Trojans are 11-0 in all-time meetings with the Lions. Concordia is in its first year as a club program and has not maintained win-loss records. The Eagles are led by first-year head coach Kari Pestolesi who was an indoor star at UC Irvine (2007-10). USC and Concordia will meet for the first time, but will play each other twice this season. No. 3-ranked Pepperdine (7-3) has dropped two of its last three duals (3-2 to USC and 3-2 to Florida International). It is uncharted waters for the Waves, who went undefeated in 2012, and lost just one dual in 2013 (the national championship match) and one in 2014 (to USC) before it went on to win the AVCA crown. Pepperdine owns a 7-2 edge over the Trojans in the all-time series 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).
POLL POSITION: USC opened the season ranked No. 2 in the AVCA Coaches Top 10 poll and was tabbed No. 3 in the first-ever DiG Magazine Top 20 poll. The Trojans received their first-ever No. 1 ranking in 2014 and maintained the position for much of the season, before the they fell to eventual AVCA champion Pepperdine in the national semifinals. In 2013, USC started the season ranked third and finished in fourth.
TROJANS IN TV LAND: The Women of Troy appear on television in eight matches this spring. USC's match at Hawai'i was broadcast live on Honolulu's OCSports/OC16 channels. At home, the Trojans' matches at Merle Norman Stadium will be carried live by the Pac-12 Networks on March 24 and 26, and on April 2 and 9. USC holds the distinction as having appeared in the first-ever live broadcast of a women's collegiate dual match on Thursday, March 27, 2014, when USC hosted Cal State Northridge.
CARRYING THOSE CROWNS: Sophomores Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes claimed pairs' titles at both the USC Tournament (March 14) and the Queen of the Beach Challenge (March 21). The duo is 19-2 overall (10-2 in duals) with a perfect 9-0 mark in tournament matches. Hughes is right where she was last season when she and partner Kirby Burnham won the same two titles and then went on to win the USAV Beach Collegiate Challenge crown, the Pac-12 Invitational title, and eventually the AVCA Pairs National Championship.
CALL THE COPS: The Trojans have gone 5-0 in eight out of 12 dual matches this season. In fact, USC is 12-0 at courts three and five, in dual matches and is 55-5 overall in individual matches. The Trojans have produced this mark using only one pair that has collegiate experience together. Only court four where sophomores Nicolette Martin and Allie Wheeler team up for a 36-8 all-time record has played together before this spring. The other four Trojan pairs lined up in duals are newly formed for 2015.