Currently on a five-match winning streak, the No. 4 USC women’s sand volleyball team will look to continue its success at home against defending national champion and current No. 1 Pepperdine today at Merle Norman Stadium.
The Women of Troy (9-2) have momentum after two big home wins over top-10 teams on March 22. The first came against No. 5 Hawai’i in a match that USC won handily, 5-0. The second was more grueling, as the Women of Troy faced a stout opponent in No. 9 Nebraska, but they were able to outlast the Huskers in a 3-2 victory.
After USC posted two sweeps in the No. 4 and 5-ranked matches, Nebraska took the No. 3-ranked match and pushed USC’s No. 1-ranked pair of graduate student Stevi Robinson and junior outside hitter/opposite Kirby Burnham to three sets before the pair ultimately clinched the dual by defeating the Cornhusker’s Kelsey Robinson and Alexa Strange, 16-21, 21-18, 19-17, to give the team a much-needed boost heading into the match against the defending national champions.
Pepperdine (5-0) has yet to be defeated in this young season, although they have had a much lighter schedule than USC. The Waves are coming off a tough 3-2 road win against No. 2 Long Beach State in a rematch of the 2012 AVCA Collegiate sand volleyball national championship on March 21. After being down 2-0 early, Pepperdine battled back to win the match with three consecutive matches to win the dual.
The team score was tied at 2 after Pepperdine’s No. 1-ranked pair of Lilla Frederick and Kim Hill won their match in straight sets, and the dual was clinched in the No. 2-ranked match when the Waves’ duo of Lara Dykstra and Caitlin Racich swept their match to complete the comeback. The Waves’ win gave Long Beach State (5-1) its first loss of the season.
This dual against Pepperdine will be the toughest test yet for a much newer, less experienced USC team that has fared well against other top-ranked opponents this season.
“Coming into the season, we didn’t have a lot of beach experience,” USC head coach Anna Collier said. “It’s really been all about getting more competitions and experience under our belts.”
USC’s only losses this year have been to No. 3 Florida State (2-3) and No. 2 Long Beach State (2-3) and, in both cases, it took five matches to overcome USC.
“The rankings are separated by just a number of points,” Collier said. “Sometimes, that’s just the way the volleyball bounces.”
USC will really be put to the test in its next three matches, having to play Pepperdine twice and No. 2 Long Beach State, once with the final two matches on the road, away from the comfort of the brand-new Merle Norman Stadium, where the Women of Troy are 7-2 this season.
However, the “new kids on the block” will have the home sand advantage today and look to extend their winning streak in what would be an impressive upset. The first serve is set for 5 p.m. and the match can be tracked on the USC official athletic site.