The USC women’s beach volleyball team lost 2-3 to their crosstown rivals UCLA Wednesday night. The Women of Troy were coming off a tough loss against Pepperdine.
The matches opened up on the 5th court, where the USC senior duo Jenna Belton and Jo Kremer took on UCLA junior Izzy Carey and freshman Megan Muret. Early on, the veteran duo Belton and Kremer showed why they were labeled by the USC’s coaches as “the group you can leave alone,” by going up 17-13 early on in the first set.
However, the lead would be short-lived as Muret and Carey would use an 8-3 run to steal the first set from USC. UCLA would carry on the momentum from the first set, going up 11-6 early on in the second set, and dominantly finished the game 21-10 to earn UCLA its first point of the match.
On court four, junior Katrina Kernochan and graduate student Alexandra Poletto took on UCLA freshman Mac May, a former Gatorade player of the year, and senior Elisa Zappia. After falling behind early in the first set 4-8, the Kernochan and Poletto duo fought back to bring it to 11-11.
Kernochan and Poletto used their size as an advantage — using high shots to keep the defense off balance. Despite taking a timeout with the score at 17-18, May and Zappia would use a 3-1 run to close out the first set.
In a highly competitive second set, UCLA continued to attack the 5-foot-9 Kernochan, stuffing her at the net multiple times. Despite that, USC seized a 17-14 lead behind Poletto’s proficiency near the net. Though UCLA had a 4-0 run to tie the second set at 19 a piece, Kernochan closed it out to win 21-19 and force a third set. In the decisive third set, May and Zappia used powerful shots and a 6-1 run to open up 9-5. With all of the momentum on the Bruins’ side, Kernochan dominated the next few points to tie it at 12-12. Poletto and Kernochan were unable to close the deal and fell 14-16 off of May’s kill.
On the second court, senior Terese Cannon and freshman Sammy Slater were also unable to get any momentum going for USC, losing the first set 15-21. They fought back hard in the second set to go up 12-11. Despite their efforts, sophomore Lily Justine and junior Sarah Sponcil came back to win 21-17, and seal the overall win for UCLA.
With USC behind 0-3 and the match decided, the Women of Troy would turn to their No. 1 pair of freshman Tina Graudina and junior Abril Bustamante to win a game as they faced off against UCLA’s twins Nicole and Megan McNamara. The McNamara twins, who were riding a 16-game winning streak, showed their dominance by going up on USC 9-16 early in the first set and closing it out 16-21. The McNamaras were noticeably sloppier in the second set, and USC capitalized winning the second set 21-17. In the competitive third set, Graudina and Bustamante won 16-14 to get USC its first victory. Graudina, has stepped in as an immediate contributor for USC and she has reaped high praise from the coaches. Assistant coach Dain Blanton told the Pac-12 Network that he “wouldn’t be surprised” if Graudina was to be selected to represent Latvia in the 2020 Olympic Games.
The dual would be finished with sophomore Joy Dennis and freshman Haley Hallgren taking on the reigning Pac-12 pair of the week, Savvy Simo and Zana Muno. They came out strong against the streaking pair, winning 21-19 in the first set. Dennis and Hallgren came out swinging again in the second set jumping on the Bruins 6-1, but Simo and Muno fought back to take the second set 17-21. USC at least took the third set 15-8, but ended the match with a loss.
With Wednesday’s 3-2 victory, UCLA has now won two out of three duals against USC in 2018.
Up next, the Women of Troy will welcome Pepperdine on April 10 at 5 p.m. The game will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Network.