This year in Pac-12 beach volleyball

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SAN FRANCISCO - USC defended its NCAA Beach Volleyball title, cruising through the winners’ bracket with 3-0 wins in the first three rounds before defeating Pepperdine, 3-2, at Gulf Shores, Ala. With the dual match tied at 2-2, USC pair Terese Cannon and Nicolette Martin claimed the final and deciding third set, 16-14, to give the Trojans their third-straight national championship (AVCA title in 2015) and second-consecutive NCAA crown.

USC’s Kelly Claes was tabbed the Pac-12 Player of the Year for the second-consecutive year, while also claiming the Pac-12 Pair of the Year for the second-straight year with teammate Sara Hughes. UCLA’s Stein Metzger was voted the Pac-12 Coach of the Year by his colleagues, leading the Bruins to a No. 2 seeding in the NCAA Tournament after snapping the Trojans’ 62-match duals winning streak. STANFORD’s Kathryn Plummer, who helped the Cardinal clinch the NCAA title on the hardcourt in December, was named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year.

Claes and Hughes also led the Trojans to a second-consecutive Pac-12 title on the sand. USC outlasted the Bruins, 3-2, to win the crown after coming through the contenders’ bracket to reach the championship match. It was, again, a two-point win in the final and deciding set of the fifth match of the dual. The All-American pair went on to win the Pac-12 Pairs title for the second-straight year, defeating USC teammates Allie Wheeler and Sophie Bukovec.

To cap the season, Claes and Hughes also won the USAV Collegiate Beach Pairs Championship, their second-career national title for the duo after winning the 2015 AVCA pairs title.

Six players earned AVCA All-American honors, including four Trojans: Claes, Hughes, Bukovec and Wheeler. Twin pair of UCLA, Nicole and Megan McNamara, also earned individual accolades.

USC ended the 2017 campaign ranked No. 1 in the country in the final AVCA Coaches poll, a position they had stood all season. UCLA was ranked No. 5 and ARIZONA was No. 9. In the DiG final polling, USC and UCLA held the same positions with the Wildcats earning a No. 8 rating to end the season, followed by No. 18 ARIZONA STATE and No. 19 Stanford.

Also of note this season, the second in the Pac-12 and NCAA, UTAH competed in its first-official campaign, expanding the league to nine teams.

USC’s domination and the appearance of several teams in the national rankings extends the Pac-12’s legacy of excellence in the sport of indoor volleyball to the sand.

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