Trojans Set to Face Georgia State at NCAA Championship|
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May 3, 2016
LOS ANGELES -- The No. 1-ranked defending national champion USC beach volleyball team (30-2) received the No. 2 seed in the inaugural NCAA Beach Volleyball Championship and drew seventh-seeded No. 7 Georgia State (25-8) in the first round. The Women of Troy and the Panthers will meet on Friday, May 6, on the sands of Gulf Shores, Ala., in an 11 a.m. CT match (9 a.m. PT).
The Trojans are coming off a weekend in which they claimed the first-ever Pac-12 Championship and extended their dual winning streak to 26 consecutive matches. Juniors Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes became the first Pac-12 Pairs Champions and maintained their unblemished record. The dynamic duo moved to 44-0 on the year, and have now won 69 straight matches.
The Women of Troy are trying to copycat some school history this weekend. In 1980, head coach Chuck Erbe led the USC indoor women's volleyball team to the AIAW championship (46-4). It was the final non-NCAA championship. In 1981, his squad returned to claim the first-ever NCAA-sponsored crown as USC (27-10) claimed back-to-back titles. The USC beach volleyball team is the holder of the final non-NCAA championship as winners of the 2015 AVCA title and is now trying to become the first-ever NCAA beach volleyball champion.
The first NCAA beach volleyball tournament will be contested in the same place each of the last four AVCA titles was won: Gulf Shores, Ala. In an eight-team double-elimination bracket, teams will determine a champion this weekend (May 6-8). Portions of the national championship will be broadcast by truTV. The championship dual (1 p.m. CT) on Sunday, May 8, will be broadcast live by TBS. All non-televised matches will be shown live via a web stream on NCAA.com.
LAST TIME OUT: The Women of Troy won the first-ever Pac-12 Championship by claiming four dual victories at Merle Norman Stadium. USC defeated Oregon (5-0) in the first round and then took out California (5-0) in its second match. The Trojans faced crosstown rival No. 4-ranked UCLA in the winner's bracket semifinal and earned a 3-2 win over the Bruins. In the final match of the tournament, the Women of Troy took down No. 6-ranked Arizona, 3-0, to claim the title. The four wins increased USC's win streak to 26 matches. Juniors Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes maintained their unblemished record and improved to 44-0 on the season with four wins in pairs play. The duo became the first-ever Pac-12 Paris Champions and extended their incredible winning streak to 69 straight matches.
SCOUTING REPORT: The Trojans met all seven of the teams from the inaugural NCAA championship field this season and went 12-2 in those meetings. Florida State (29-1), out of the east, received the top seed. Pepperdine (19-3) is No. 3 and UCLA (19-6) is No. 4. At-large selections Arizona (19-5) and Hawai'i (16-8) are seeded fifth and sixth, and are both out of the west. Georgia State (25-8) is seeded No. 7 and Stetson (26-7) is No. 8. The Trojans' only losses were to Florida State and Pepperdine; 3-2 each time. The Women of Troy and the GSU Panthers met for the first time earlier this season as part of the Florida International Surf and Turf Invitational in South Beach, Fla. The Trojans claimed a 4-1 win at Lummus Park and got straight-set victories at the top three courts. The Panthers won a three-set match at court four and USC took a three-set win at court five.
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 34-4 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 104-17 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. They share the all-time mark for wins by a pair at 88. Martin and Wheeler are 88-14 all-time. 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. They matched that mark this season (44-0) and are now 88-3 all-time.
LET'S GO STREAKING: Juniors Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes have won 69 straight matches dating back to April 2, 2015. During that streak, the two Trojans have lost just six sets (only one this season). 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.