USC Beach Volleyball Meets Cal Poly to Open NCAA Tourney Run
LOS ANGELES – Three-time beach volleyball national champion USC (26-4) enters the 2021 NCAA championship as the No. 2-seed in search of the school's fourth title on the sand. The Trojans return to Gulf Shores where they are 21-8 all-time and open against No. 7-seed Cal Poly (23-9) on Friday, May 7.
2021 NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP
The Hangout at Gulf Place • Gulf Shores, Ala.
Friday, May 7 - Sunday, May 9, 2021
Match #31 • Friday, May 7 • 11 a.m. CT (9 a.m. PT)
 No. 2 USC (26-4) vs.  No. 6 Cal Poly (23-9)
NCAA First Round • Winner's Bracket Quarterfinal
SERIES HISTORY: USC leads, 5-0 (1.000)
STREAK: Won 5 • LAST 10: 5-0
LAST MEETING: W 5-0 (Apr. 16, 2021 • San Luis Obispo, Calif.)
OPPONENT WEBSITE: GoPoly.com
TV: ESPNU (Sam Gore & Holly McPeak)
NCAA WEBSITE: NCAA.com
- USC owns three beach volleyball national championships including the first-ever NCAA title in 2016 (AVCA '15, NCAA '17).
- The Trojans make their fifth appearance in the NCAA championship where they are 14-4 in duals. USC won the first two championships (2016-17) and finished as the runner up in 2019.
- The Women of Troy also own three Pac-12 crowns (2016, '17, '19).
- USC is 21-8 all-time in the state of Alabama (all 29 duals in Gulf Shores).
- The Trojans are the second seed in the NCAA field for the second time. USC was also seeded No. 2 in the inaugural NCAA championship and won in 2016.
- Second-year head coach Dain Blanton took the helm for the Women of Troy in July 2019 and is 32-9 overall.
- USC is ranked No. 2 in the AVCA Coaches Poll. It is the 75th time (of 75) the Trojans are ranked; USC's 74th time in the top 5.
- Trojan pairs won Pac-12 Pair of the Week laurels five times this spring.
- Sr. Joy Dennis has 102 career wins; ninth all-time among USC players.
- Following USC's runner-up finish at the Pac-12 Championship, Sr. Joy Dennis, Jr. Tina Graudina, and freshmen Delaynie Maple and Megan Kraft were each named to the Pac-12 All-Tournament Team.
- So. twin sisters Audrey Nourse and Nicole Nourse produced 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.
- Two USC pairs have won more than 20 matches this season: Dennis and Maple (24-3) and Nourse and Nourse (25-3).
- 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.
LAST TIME OUT: The Trojans had a 12-dual winning streak snapped in the winner's bracket final of the Pac-12 Championship but fought back to finish as the league runner-up. USC defeated Oregon in the first round, 3-0, and earned a pair of 3-0 wins over ninth-ranked Stanford but fell to crosstown rival UCLA in 3-1 and 3-2 results as the Bruins won their second Pac-12 crown.
USC POSTSEASON HISTORY: The Trojans have played in the national collegiate tournament in all but one year since the program began in 2012. USC made appearances in the AVCA championship in 2013 and 2014 but went 2-2 each year as Pepperdine and Long Beach State claimed national titles. The Trojans broke through and secured their first national crown in 2015; a title accompanied by a 28-0 undefeated record. In 2016, the NCAA sponsored its first beach volleyball championship in the sport as USC went 34-2 to capture the first-ever NCAA title with back-to-back wins over top-seeded Florida State. The Trojans won 32 in a row to open 2017 and finished the year with their second consecutive NCAA title; and third straight national championship. USC was 2-2 in the NCAA championship in 2018 and then returned as the top seed in 2019 before falling to UCLA in the championship dual.
CLOSING COSTS: Several USC players are closing in on the program's top 10 for individual career victories. Graduate Joy Dennis crossed over and leads that group with 102 career wins to rank ninth all-time. Junior Tina Graudina is next with 87-career wins which is 12th all-time. Senior Sammy Slater has 85-career wins and senior Haley Hallgren has 82-career victories.
POLL POSITION: USC was ranked No. 4 in the 2021 AVCA Coaches Top 20 preseason poll and ascended to take the No. 1 spot in the March 9th poll. The Women of Troy have been ranked in every AVCA poll for a total of 75 weeks. USC has also been ranked in the top five of the poll 74 times. The Trojans held that top-five distinction for 63 consecutive weeks from its inception until March 2, 2020. USC first seized the top spot in both polls on March 23, 2015, following a victory over then No. 1-ranked Hawai'i on the road and held the ranking for the rest of 2015. USC has been ranked No. 1 in 42 AVCA polls, the most all-time. The Trojans, Pepperdine, Hawai'i, UCLA, LSU, and Florida State are the only six teams ever to hold the top spot in the poll. USC is 112-13 all-time when ranked No. 1. The Trojans received their first-ever No. 1 ranking in 2014 and maintained the position for much of the season, before the they fell to eventual AVCA champion Pepperdine in the national semifinals.
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.
1-2 PUNCH: The Trojans have played in 23 1v2 matchups and are 13-10 all-time in such duals; 3-3 in 2021. In 2019, USC was part of 1v2 matches six times and went 3-3. USC was 2-1 in 2017 and went 4-1 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 7-7 when ranked No. 1 and 6-3 when ranked No. 2.