No. 1 USC Set to Host Pac-12 Invitational

    USC sophomore Sara Hughes

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    April 16, 2015

    Hosted by the University of Southern California
    Annenberg Community Beach House
    415 Pacific Coast Highway
    Santa Monica, Calif.
    Participants: Arizona, Arizona State, California, UCLA, USC

    Pac-12 Team Invitational
    Saturday, April 18 - 9 a.m. PT

    Pac-12 Pairs Invitational
    Sunday, April 19 - 9 a.m. PT
    Two concurrent brackets (Silver: 4s, 5s, Gold: 1s, 2s, 3s)

    LOS ANGELES - The No. 1-ranked USC women's sand volleyball team (21-0) hosts the 2015 Pac-12 Invitational this weekend (April 18-19) at the Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, Calif. The Women of Troy will welcome No. 8 UCLA (8-2), No. 10 Arizona (13-1), Arizona State (5-10), and California (7-12) for the team and pairs tournaments.

    The Trojans hold the top seed in the double-elimination team tournament and will have a first-round bye. Fourth-seeded ASU and fifth-seeded California will meet in Saturday's first dual match (9 a.m. PT) for the right to face USC. No. 2-seeded UCLA and third-seeded Arizona will play in the day's second match.

    Sunday action also begins at 9 a.m. PT and will feature two concurrent pairs brackets. The Silver Bracket will pit teams' fourth- and fifth-rated pairs in a 10-team single elimination tournament. The Gold Bracket holds the top three pairs from each of the attending teams in a 15-team single-elimination tourney.

    Last year, USC won both the team and pairs titles at the Pac-12 Invitational. The Trojans swept Bakersfield, ASU, and Loyola Marymount to claim the team crown and Sara Hughes and Kirby Burnham won the pairs title.

    The Trojans are undefeated heading into the tourney and equaled a program-best 21-match winning streak with a pair of 5-0 sweeps over Irvine Valley College and Concordia on Tuesday. USC's 21-0 start to the season is also a school record. Of the 21 wins, the Trojans have swept their opponent 14 times.

    Each of USC's starting five pairs has crossed the 20-win plateau this season. Sophomores Kelly Claes and Hughes have claimed three tournament crowns this spring and are 30-3 overall (18-3 in duals) and is just the third pair in USC history to reach the 30-win mark. USC's No. 2 pair of sophomore Sophie Bukovec and junior Alexa Strange is 25-6 (18-3 in duals). On three, seniors Eve Ettinger and Meg Norton are 25-4 with a remarkable 20-1 record in duals. Sophomores Nicolette Martin and Allie Wheeler are 23-4 (16-2 in duals). At court five, no Trojan duo has lost in a dual. USC is 21-0 there with senior Bria Russ and freshman Jenna Belton at 16-0.

    LAST TIME OUT: The Women of Troy equaled a program-best 21-match winning streak (set in 2014) with a pair of 5-0 wins over Irvine Valley College and Concordia in Irvine, Calif. The Trojans didn't drop a single set across the board in both duals, and earned the 14th 5-0 sweep of an opponent this spring. In the previous week, USC celebrated its senior class with a pair of wins over Loyola Marymount and San Francisco (April 9, and then earned two 5-0 wins at the USAV Beach Collegiate Challenge over Santa Clara and Boise State in Hermosa Beach, Calif. Sophomores Sara Hughes and Kelly Claes claimed the Collegiate Challenge gold bracket while sophomores Nicolette Martin and Allie Wheeler took home the title from the bronze bracket. Sophomore Sophie Bukovec and junior Alexa Strange came in second in the silver bracket.

    SCOUTING REPORT: The Trojans have faced California (7-12) and Arizona State (5-10) in previous duals this season, but should USC meet No. 8 UCLA (8-2) or No. 10 Arizona (13-1), it would be for the first time since last season. Cal has claimed wins in three of its last four duals and only dropped a narrow 3-2 decision to Washington. Arizona's only loss was a 3-2 match to Nebraska. The Wildcats have won each of their 13 duals by 4-1 or 5-0 scores. Three of ASU's five victories have been over New Mexico, a team that USC defeated, 4-1, this season. The Sun Devils split matches in their last outing: a win over New Mexico and a loss to CSU Bakersfield. UCLA had won three in a row before a narrow 3-2 loss to Long Beach State this week. The Bruins' only other loss was also to LBSU: a 5-0 decision on April 4.

    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: Only three Trojan pairs have ever crossed the 30-win plateau in USC's four years as a program. Sara Hughes and Kelly Claes are 30-3 this season with several matches yet to play. Hughes and Kirby Burnham teamed to become the first pair to reach the mark in 2014 and finished with a 42-4 record en route to the AVCA crown. Claes and Alexa Strange were the second two Trojans to break the 30-win mark and finished at 33-7 last season with an appearance in the AVCA pairs championship. This season, Strange and Sophie Bukovec (25-4) and Eve Ettinger and Meg Norton (25-6) also have 30 wins within reach.

    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 Women of Troy seized the top spot in both polls on March 23 following their victory over then No. 1-ranked Hawaii on the road. 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.