No. 2 USC Beach Volleyball Set for Center of Effort Challenge
LOS ANGELES – No. 2 USC beach volleyball (18-2) treks up the California coast for four duals against top-10 opponents this weekend at the Center of Effort Challenge hosted by Cal Poly at the new Swanson Beach Volleyball Complex. On Friday (April 16), the Trojans face No. 5 Loyola Marymount (20-2) and No. 6 Cal Poly (16-5). On Saturday (April 17), USC takes on No. 8 Grand Canyon (16-5) and No. 1 UCLA (19-1). The Women of Troy have met the Lions, Mustangs, and Bruins once each this spring and are 3-0 in those duals. USC faces the Lopes for the first time in 2021 but seeks to take revenge for a loss to GCU sustained in South Carolina on the opening weekend of the 2020 season.
2021 CENTER OF EFFORT CHALLENGE
Swanson Beach VB Complex • San Luis Obispo, Calif.
MATCH #21 • Friday, April 16 • 12:30 p.m. PT
No. 2 USC (18-2) vs. No. 5 Loyola Marymount (20-2)
SERIES HISTORY: USC leads, 21-0 (1.000)
STREAK: Won 21 • LAST 10: 10-0
LAST MEETING: W 5-0 (Mar. 13, 2021 • MNS)
MATCH #22 • Friday, April 16 • 3:30 p.m. PT
No. 2 USC (18-2) at No. 6 Cal Poly (16-5)
SERIES HISTORY: USC leads, 4-0 (1.000)
STREAK: Won 4 • LAST 10: 4-0
LAST MEETING: W 5-0 (Mar. 4, 2021 • MNS)
MATCH #23 • Saturday, April 17 • 3:30 p.m. PT
No. 2 USC (18-2) vs. No. 8 Grand Canyon (16-5)
SERIES HISTORY: USC leads, 7-1 (.875)
STREAK: Lost 1 • LAST 10: 7-1
LAST MEETING: L 3-2 (Mar. 1, 2020 • Hilton Head, S.C.)
MATCH #24 • Saturday, April 17 • 6:30 p.m. PT
No. 2 USC (18-2) vs. No. 1 UCLA (19-1)
SERIES HISTORY: USC leads, 13-11 (.542)
STREAK: Won 1 • LAST 10: 4-6
LAST MEETING: W 5-0 (Mar. 4, 2021 • MNS)
- USC owns three beach volleyball national championships including the first-ever NCAA title in 2016 (AVCA '15, NCAA '17).
- The Trojans have won three Pac-12 crowns (2016, '17, '19).
- Second-year head coach Dain Blanton took the helm for the defending Pac-12 champions in July 2019 and is 24-7 overall.
- USC is ranked No. 2 in the AVCA Coaches Poll. It is the 72nd time (of 72) the Trojans are ranked; USC's 71st time in the top 5.
- Jr. All-American Tina Graudina and Fr. Megan Kraft were chosen for Pac-12 Pair of the Week and AVCA/CollegeBeachVB.com National Pair of the Week honors. USC pairs have won Pac-12 Pair of the Week laurels five times this spring.
- Sr. Joy Dennis has 94 career wins to rank 11th all-time among USC players. She is three wins from crossing into the program's all-time top 10.
- So. twin sisters Audrey Nourse and Nicole Nourse can claim the program's third-longest winning streak by a pair having won 26 straight matches between March 1, 2020 and April 10, 2021. Only streaks of 28 and 103 wins are longer.
- Women of Troy have received AVCA All-America notice 20 times. USC returns All-Americans Sammy Slater and Tina Graudina to the lineup this spring.
- USC will play its first matches in San Luis Obispo, Calif.
LAST TIME OUT: The Trojans went 4-0 at the Pac-12 North Invitational in Phoenix and were 19-1 in matches (39-2 in sets) against No. 7 Stanford, No. 11 California, Arizona State, and Washington. USC collected three more 5-0 sweeps to run the season total to 12 clean sweeps and extended to a five-dual winning streak. The Trojans also improved to 25-1 all-time in contests played in the state of Arizona.
CLOSING COSTS: Despite most of the Trojans' pairs playing together for the first time, several USC players are closing in on the program's top 10 for individual career victories. Graduate Joy Dennis leads that group with 94 career wins to rank 11th all-time. Junior Tina Graudina is next with 80-career wins which is 14th all-time. Senior Sammy Slater is next with 79-career wins and senior Haley Hallgren has 78-career victories.
POW-WOW: USC pairs have won the Pac-12 Beach Volleyball Pair of the Week award a league-best 22 times since its inception in 2016. On March 5, sophomores Audrey Nourse and Nicole Nourse won the first award of 2021 (their first-career honor) and became only the third No. 5 pair ever to be chosen for the league's weekly award. Hailey Harward and Julia Scoles were honored on March 10; and the Trojans' No. 1 pair of All-Americans Tina Graudina and Sammy Slater were chosen March 18 and March 24. Graudina earned her third honor of the season paired with freshman Megan Kraft on April 13. All-Americans Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes are owners of a school-record five Pac-12 POW awards. Jenna Belton and Jo Kremer were the first-ever No. 5 pair to win the honor on March 21, 2017. USC's Nicolette Martin and Allie Wheeler have the great distinction of being the first-ever Pac-12 Pair of the Week honorees; chosen from the No. 3 position as juniors on March 8, 2016.