Coming off a third-place finish at the USA Volleyball Beach Collegiate Challenge at Hermosa Beach on Saturday, April 20, the No. 4-ranked USC women’s sand volleyball team now moves on to take part in an exhibition match with the USA junior national beach team on Saturday, April 27.
“Pairs on the junior national team might be similar to a North Florida or a Louisiana-Monroe team that we might meet that have that scrappy, little beach game,” USC head coach Anna Collier said. “This will be good for our team of more beach-style players so that we don’t get caught off guard by these other teams’ different styles of play.”
Although it will only be an exhibition, this will be USC’s last home match at the brand new Merle Norman Stadium, where the team has gone 7-3 this season.
“It’s a lot easier playing on our home sand because we are able to move quicker, run faster and jump higher than we would on the actual beach,” graduate student Stevi Robinson said. “More than anything though, we just need the ball touches and playing competitive games.”
The matches will serve as a final tune-up for the Women of Troy before they travel to the American Volleyball Coaches Association sand volleyball national championship in Gulf Shores, Ala., May 3-5.
The Women of Troy (14-6) found out this week that they will be the fourth seed in the tournament, which top-ranked Pepperdine won last year. This seeding seems to be appropriate since USC has been ranked as the No. 4 team in the country for the majority of the season. Its highest ranking earlier this season was third but dropped a spot after narrowly losing to Florida State.
“I felt our seed was appropriate since every team above us has beaten us, but I think we are better than at least one team that is above us,” Collier said. “However, we didn’t play enough to prove that we are so it’s fair.”
The Women of Troy will also have individual pairs participating in a 16-team pairs championship that will feature the top duos in the nation on sand. USC will be represented by its No. 1 team of junior Kirby Burnham and Robinson, as well as the No. 2-ranked pair of senior Katie Fuller and freshman Cinnamon Sary.
Last weekend at the USAV tournament, the duo of Burnham and Robinson finished as the runner-ups in the gold division, tying for the highest finish of any USC team. The two beat Long Beach State’s, Santa Clara’s and Pepperdine’s No. 2 teams, all in straight sets, before dropping the final to Pepperdine’s No. 1 duo of Kim Hill and Lilla Frederick in two close sets, 21-19, 21-18.
The pair of junior Sam Hirschmann and senior Natasa Siljkovic also finished as runner-ups, but in the bronze division, falling to yet another Pepperdine pair in the final. The USC duo narrowly lost in three sets, 15-21, 21-15, 12-15.
In the team competition, USC won two of its three dual matches, opening the day with a 4-1 loss to No. 2 Long Beach State and then bouncing back with commanding wins over CSU Bakersfield (4-1) and Loyola Marymount (5-0).
USC will look to build on its performance last weekend against the USA junior national beach team on Saturday. That team features former USC players such as Geena Urango, who was the first scholarship recipient of the Women of Troy’s sand program in its 2012 debut season. First serve for the dual is set for 9 a.m.