Tina Graudina Qualifies for 2020 Olympic Games
HAIYANG, China – Two-time USC beach volleyball All-American Tina Graudina (Jurmala, Latvia) and partner Anastasija Kravcenoka made history as the first-ever women's team from Latvia to qualify for the Olympics as winners of the Olympic Beach Volleyball Qualification Tournament over the weekend. Graudina herself is the first-ever NCAA beach volleyball player to earn a berth in the Olympic Games.
"[I have] this special sense of happiness to realize that all my work and every decision I've made until now has resulted in this reward," said Graudina. "All the sacrifices, the sweat, and the tears weren't for nothing. Now, our main goal is to prepare as best we can to compete for a good result, but we also hope to enjoy the whole experience as first-time Olympians; and hopefully not last."
Graudina and Kravcenoka were recently crowned the 2019 European Champions in mid-August. The duo took the 20 seed all the way to the final and turned seven victories into gold medals. Seeded 11th in the Olympic Beach Volleyball Qualification Tournament, Graudina-Kravcenoka picked up five more wins in China and completed a dramatic finish down 12-8 in the third set to Barbora Hermannova and Marketa Slukova of the Czech Republic. The duo climbed all the way back to complete a 21-17, 15-21, 17-15 result to secure the highly-coveted automatic berth into the 2020 Tokyo Games.
"You always play to win," said Graudina. "Winning the European championships was special and unexpected, but this win today ranks as a great achievement as we become the first women's team from our country to qualify for the beach volleyball competition at the Olympics. I am so proud of Anastasija as her serving got us back to even (12-12) in the third set."
In two seasons with the Women of Troy, Graudina's resume is nothing short of impressive. She holds a 64-4 all-time record and was named an AVCA All-American in each of her two seasons. Graudina was named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year in 2018. As a sophomore, she teamed with senior Abril Bustamante to earn the Pac-12's Pair of the Year honor and was chosen as the Pac-12 Player of the Year. The duo was also honored as the National Pair of the Year by Volleyball Magazine.
"When I first saw Tina play as a youth in the U17 World Championships in Acapulco, I knew that she was something special," said former USC head coach Anna Collier. "It makes me so proud to have seen all of the growth she experienced at USC pay off with this incredible honor. I know she will represent the Trojan Family and her native country of Latvia well next summer."
"I am so proud of Tina," said first-year USC head coach Dain Blanton. "She is one of the most focused players I have ever coached. This accomplishment is the direct result of serious hard work and persistence. This is also an amazing feat considering how young she is and this is just the beginning for her. It's also another amazing accomplishment by a USC beach volleyball athlete who is doing big things on the sand!"
The Women of Troy begin a new era in 2019-20 under first-year head coach Dain Blanton. The Olympic gold-medalist took the reins in late July following the retirement of eight-year head coach Anna Collier. Blanton and assistant coach Gustavo Rocha will lead the Trojans into the program's ninth season in a quest for a fourth Pac-12 title and fourth national championship.
A three-time national champion, USC finished as the NCAA runner-up in 2019 with a 32-6 overall record. The Trojans eclipsed the 30-win total for the third time and claimed the program's third Pac-12 Championship with a dramatic 3-2 win over crosstown rival UCLA. Collier was chosen as the AVCA National Coach of the Year and the Pac-12 Coach of the Year and became the first and only coach to cross the 200-career victory plateau. Abril Bustamante and Tina Graudina were named the Pac-12 Pair of the Year with Graudina the Player of the Year. The duo was chosen for AVCA All-America honors alongside Terese Cannon and Sammy Slater.
For more information on the three-time national champion USC beach volleyball team and a complete schedule, please visit USCTrojans.com and follow @USCBeach on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.