In an epic home opener at Merle Norman Stadium against a pair of beach volleyball powerhouses —Pepperdine and UCLA — the Trojans fell on the wrong side of both nail-biting matches 3-2.
The clash between three of the nation’s top programs was one to remember, as the Trojans fought hard but came just short.
Both matches came down to third sets in the teams’ final matchups with both teams anxiously watching their final duos play. Unfortunately for the Trojans, both matches ended in losses leading to the end of their 16-game winning streak.
Against UCLA, the Trojans split the fourth and fifth courts. On the fourth court, USC seniors Jo Kremer and Jenna Belton defeated UCLA freshman Mac May and sophomore Savvy Simo 21-12 and 21-15. The fifth court saw UCLA junior Izzy Carey and freshman Megan Muret defeat USC freshman Maja Kaiser and graduate student Alexandra Poletto 21-12 and 21-12.
On the second court, USC sophomore Joy Dennis and junior Brianna Sizemore dropped their match 21-11 and 21-18, while freshmen Haley Hallgren and Sammy Slater won their match 21-19 and 21-18, setting up a showdown of both team’s No. 1s to decide the dual.
In the deciding match, UCLA juniors Megan and Nicole McNamara downed senior Terese Cannon and junior Abril Bustamante 21-17 and 21-18 to lock down the victory for the visiting Bruins.
Against the Pepperdine Waves, the Trojans started off strong with the fifth court team of Kaiser and Poletto defeating juniors Nikki Lyons and Kaity Bailey 21-19 and 21-16. However, soon after, the Trojans were put on the ropes.
On the fourth court, Pepperdine’s junior Skylar Caputo and freshman Alexis Filippone defeated Belton and Kremer 19-21, 25-23, 15-12 and the first court match saw freshman Brook Bauer and junior Madalyn Roh defeat Cannon and Bustamante 21-19 and 21-18.
After the third court duo of Hallgren and Slater were able to overcome the Waves in three thrilling sets (21-14, 16-21 and 17-15) and keep USC’s hopes alive, both squads turned their attentions to court two where Dennis and Sizemore were locked in a tight battle against Pepperdine senior Corinne Quigle and sophomore Deahna Kraft. After splitting two thrilling sets (21-18, 19-21), Sizemore and Dennis eventually dropped the third 15-13 and the Waves’ celebration began.
After two tough losses, head coach Anna Collier said that today can be used as a learning experience
“We learned a lot,” Collier said. “If we don’t learn from this and grow, this was all for nothing. You’ll learn more from losing than you ever will from winning.”
Collier also said that while the passing of the team left something to be desired in her eyes, she said she was happy with how the team adjusted to their new roles and that one or two plays could have changed the result.
“We have to pass better,” she said. “I think if we can do that better, we’ll be fine. I don’t think they did anything that was that special, we just have to finish better.”
Despite the losses, Collier praised the team’s tenacity and their willingness to adjust to a new year.
“We’re all playing different positions because we have new, young team,” she said. “That’s difficult to do and I thought they embraced that.”
The Trojans will look to bounce back in Malibu on Saturday where they will take on both Pepperdine and UCLA again in the Zuma Classic.