No. 1 USC Set For Inaugural Pac-12 Championships|
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April 27, 2016
2016 PAC-12 BEACH VOLLEYBALL CHAMPIONSHIPS
LOS ANGELES -- The No. 1-ranked USC beach volleyball team (26-2) holds the top seed in the inaugural Pac-12 Beach Volleyball Championships and will host the first-ever pairs and team tournaments at Merle Norman Stadium this week (April 28-May 1). The Trojans' top duo of juniors Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes are the top seed in the 16-team single-elimination pairs' championship. Junior Sophie Bukovec and senior Alexa Strange carry the fifth seed into the pairs' tourney.
The championships will begin with the pairs' tournament at 1 p.m. PT on Thursday, April 28. Claes-Hughes opens against Arizona State's duo of Natalie Braun and Kwyn Johnson. Bukovec-Strange will open tournament play at approximately 2 p.m. against Oregon's team of Liz Brenner and Kacey Nady. Pairs will play out the quarterfinals on Thursday. The two semifinals will be played simultaneously at 10 a.m. PT on Friday, April 29, with the final set for 11 a.m. All three final matches will be shown live on Pac-12 Networks.
Following the pairs' championship, first-round dual matches are set to begin at 1 p.m. PT on Friday (April 29) when USC takes on eighth-seeded Oregon (2-8). The second round of duals begins at 9 a.m. PT on Saturday (April 30) with contender's bracket play. Winner's bracket semifinals are set for 1 and 3 p.m. and then contender's bracket semis follow at 5 and 7 p.m. The championship concludes on Sunday (May 1) with the title match set for 4 p.m. PT. Sunday's finals begin at 9 a.m. PT with four duals set for broadcast on Pac-12 Networks.
LAST TIME OUT: The Women of Troy closed the regular season by adding three victories to claim the Outrigger Resorts Aloha Invitational title on the sands of Queen's Beach in Honolulu. USC defeated Grand Canyon and No. 5 Hawai'i in a pair of 5-0 sweeps and then saw the Wahine emerge out of the contender's bracket for a rematch in the title dual. The Trojans defeated Hawai'i, 3-0, in the second meeting to win the crown. Juniors Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes picked up five more wins, including a pair in the gold bracket of the pairs' tournament. Junior Sophie Bukovec and senior Alexa Strange produced two wins in the silver bracket to take home the crowns there. Overall, the Trojans ran their dual winning streak to 22 straight.
SCOUTING REPORT: The Trojans have met just three of the Pac-12's seven other teams this season. USC claimed a 5-0 win over UCLA (17-4) on March 6, defeated Arizona State (11-11) in a 5-0 sweep on March 10, and took out California (16-9) by a 5-0 count on March 22. The second-seeded Bruins are ranked No. 4 in the nation and have dropped just four duals all season. Cal and ASU are the fourth and fifth seeds, respectively. No. 6-ranked Arizona (15-3) is the third seed. Washington (3-4), Stanford (4-10), and Oregon (2-8) are seeded sixth, seventh, and eighth. The Trojans have never faced the Huskies or the Cardinal and have only met Oregon one other time previously. USC is 15-0 in all-time meetings against Pac-12 foes.
OH, SO SIXY: Trojan pairs won Pac-12 Beach Volleyball Pair of the Week six times (out of eight weeks) in the conference's inaugural championship season. Led by its top pair of juniors Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes--three-time winners--four different USC pairs have claimed the weekly award. Juniors Nicolette Martin and Allie Wheeler formed the first-ever duo to be named Pair of the Week on March 7, following a 4-0 record on the Trojans' opening weekend. On March 21, Claes and Hughes were chosen after a 7-0 mark in Hawai'i during which the duo claimed the Hawai'i Invitational gold title. They later reclaimed the award on April 11 and April 25. Sophomore Jenna Belton and freshman Abril Bustamante were named Pair of the Week on March 28; and junior Sophie Bukovec and senior Alexa Strange became the fourth pair to win the award on April 18.
HOME, SWEET, HOME: The Women of Troy are 30-4 at Merle Norman Stadium since the venue's opening in 2013. The Trojans won 19 straight home matches between 2014 and 2016; and went 10-0 in 2015 and 8-0 in 2014 on MNS sand. Only three teams have ever come to Merle Norman Stadium and beaten the Trojans: Florida State (twice), Long Beach State, and Pepperdine.
ALL ABOUT THE BENJAMINS: On Saturday, April 23, USC defeated Hawai'i, 3-0, to make head coach Anna Collier the first collegiate beach volleyball coach to reach the 100 career victories mark. She is currently 100-17 all-time at Troy.
JUNIOR CITIZENS: The Trojans' junior pairs of Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes, and Nicolette Martin and Allie Wheeler are the winningest pairs in the program's history. Martin and Wheeler have the most wins of any pair with an 86-13 all-time record. The duo has played together since their arrival on campus in 2014. Claes and Hughes began playing together in 2015 and notched the all-time single season record for wins by a pair with a 44-3 record. Claes and Hughes are 80-3 all-time.
LET'S GO STREAKING: Juniors Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes have won 61 straight matches dating back to April 2, 2015. During that streak, the two Trojans have lost just six sets. The dynamic duo won 25 straight matches to close the 2015 season as AVCA National Pairs Champions and finished with a final mark of 44-3.