USC Beach Set to Defend NCAA Crown in Gulf Shores|
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May 1, 2017
MATCH #36 Friday, May 5 - 9 a.m. CT (7 a.m. PT)
LOS ANGELES -- No. 1-ranked USC (34-1) carries the top seed into the 2017 NCAA Beach Volleyball Championship this weekend and will begin defense of its back-to-back national titles against eighth-seed No. 10 South Carolina (23-9) on Friday (May 5) at 9 a.m. CT (7 a.m. PT) on the sands of Gulf Shores, Ala. The Women of Troy are two-time Pac-12 Champions and won the first-ever NCAA title in 2016.
USC has won 96 of its last 99 duals and has won eight straight matches played in Gulf Shores. Should the Trojans advance out of the first round, they would face the winner of a dual between fourth-seeded Florida State (27-7) and fifth-seeded Hawai'i (25-5) at 3 p.m. CT later that day. Seniors Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes won their second Pac-12 pairs title last weekend and lead a senior-laden Trojan squad that features Sophie Bukovec and Allie Wheeler at the No. 2 spot and Nicolette Martin at three, where she pairs with junior Terese Cannon.
DEFENDING CHAMPS: The Women of Troy are the two-time defending national champions. USC went 28-0 to capture the 2015 AVCA crown and then closed 2016 with a 30-match winning streak to claim the first-ever NCAA championship. In the process, the Trojans have won eight consecutive matches on the sands of Gulf Shores, Ala. Last year, a second-seeded USC defeated top-seeded Florida State twice to win the title; first 3-1 in the winner's bracket final and then 3-0 in the title match. In the previous year, the Trojans had to fight off 2013 AVCA champion Long Beach State twice to win USC's first national crown in beach volleyball.
Entering the championships, seniors Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes are 44-1 overall. All four of USC's other pairs are newly formed this season. Behind Claes and Hughes, juniors Jenna Belton and Jo Kremer are 33-6 overall with a 29-4 mark in duals. In the middle of the lineup, junior Terese Cannon and senior Nicolette Martin have put together a 32-win season and have picked up 29 of those in duals. Seniors Sophie Bukovec and Allie Wheeler, at the No. 2 spot, are 25-6 overall with a 21-4 mark in duals. At four, sophomore Abril Bustamante and freshman Joy Dennis are 16-5 when paired together.
LAST TIME OUT: The Trojans repeated as Pac-12 champions on the strength of a 3-2 win over crosstown rival UCLA. Earlier that day, the Bruins snapped USC's 62-match winning streak by earning a 3-2 win in the winner's bracket final, but the Trojans exacted revenge for the repeat. Seniors Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes repeated as well, as the Pac-12 Pairs Champions following a straight-set win over teammates Sophie Bukovec and Allie Wheeler in the final.
1-2 PUNCH: When No. 1 USC and No. 2 UCLA met in the Pac-12 championship match, the Trojans played in their 11th 1v2 matchup. The Trojans are 7-4 all-time in No. 1 vs. No. 2 duals. They went 3-1 in 2016 but didn't play any such matches in 2015. In three 1-vs-2 duals in 2014, USC went 1-2. Overall, in these duals, USC is 5-3 when ranked No. 1 and 2-1 when ranked No. 2.
SCOUTING REPORT: The Trojans are 43-18 against the field of opponents at the NCAA championships. Only five teams have ever defeated USC in dual matches and each of those teams is seeded two through six to account for all 18 of the program's all-time losses. The Trojans are undefeated against seventh-seeded LSU (1-0) and eighth-seeded South Carolina (2-0). USC met the Gamecocks earlier this season and claimed a 5-0 sweep in Columbia, S.C., and also took down the east coast USC by a 5-0 count in 2016. South Carolina is led by its top duo of Adrianna Culbert and Katie Smith. The duo is 12-4 at the top court. Julia Mannisto and Carly Schnieder are 22-9 together while Franky Harrison and Jade Vitt are 21-9 as a pair.
POW-WOW: USC pairs won the Pac-12's Beach Volleyball Pair of the Week honor five times (out of eight weeks) this season. Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes claimed the first honor of the season on March 7 and won their fifth all-time award on April 4. Jenna Belton and Jo Kremer became the first-ever No. 5 pair to take home the weekly award on March 21. USC's pair of Terese Cannon and Nicolette Martin earned the distinction on March 28, and seniors Sophie Bukovec and Allie Wheeler were selected as the last pair of the season on April 25. In all, USC has had its pair claim the weekly award 11 times since its inception in 2016.
LET'S GO STREAKING: USC set a new program record to close the 2016 season as winners of 30 consecutive matches. The streak carried into the 2017 campaign and reached 62 straight wins before a loss on April 28 in the Pac-12 Championship winner's bracket final. The 62 wins ranks sixth among longest streaks in the history of USC athletics. Seniors Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes won 103 straight matches between April 2, 2015 and April 8, 2017. During that incredible streak, the two Trojans lost just seven sets (only one in 2016 and one in 2017). 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. They then went undefeated in 2016 with a 48-0 record.
SENIOR CITIZENS: The Trojans' seniors Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes are the winningest pair in program history. The duo has won 136 matches (4 losses) together over the course of a three-year relationship. Seniors Nicolette Martin and Allie Wheeler formed the second-most successful duo in school history from 2014-16 as they amassed 91 victories (91-14) through the end of the 2016 NCAA championship run. Claes and Hughes own the USC single-season record for wins with a 48-0 mark achieved in 2016 and the record for longest winning streak with a 103-match run between April 2, 2015 and April 8, 2017.
ALL ABOUT THE BENJAMINS: On Saturday, April 23, 2016, 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 142-18 (.888) all-time. The next closest coach is Pepperdine's Nina Matthies who reached 100 this season and is 109-16 (.872) overall.