Top-ranked beach volleyball squad prepares to host No. 14 Cal

Katie Chin | Daily Trojan
Flying high · Freshman Avery Hazelrigg and the Trojans are undefeated as the top team in the country. They will look to continue their dominance on Tuesday when No. 14 Cal visits Merle Norman Stadium.

With the No. 1 USC beach volleyball team back on the West Coast after a weekend-long trip to South Carolina, the undefeated Trojans (16-0) will now square off against a Pac-12 foe in the No. 14 California Golden Bears for a dual match Tuesday at Merle Norman Stadium.

The Trojans will be playing on little rest after returning from their cross-country trip to Columbia, S.C. over the weekend when they took part in the Gamecock Grand
Slam-Dan Apol Memorial tournament. There, the Trojans pulled out four wins against four ranked teams in No. 4 Florida State, No. 9 host South Carolina, No. 9 Georgia State and No. 13 Stetson at Wheeler Beach to remain undefeated on the season and push their winning streak to 46 consecutive dual matches.

USC is led by senior
All-Americans Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes at the top court, and the pair ran their own winning streak to a remarkable 91 matches in a row dating back to the 2015 season with their wins over the weekend. The No. 2 and No. 3 pairs for the Trojans are also made up of upperclassmen, as seniors Sophie Bukovec and Allie Wheeler went 3-1 at the two spot, and junior Terese Cannon and senior Nicolette Martin went a perfect 4-0 at court three. USC’s young guns in sophomore Abril Bustamante and freshman Joy Dennis went 3-1 on the weekend at court four, while the reigning Pac-12 Pair of the Week, juniors Jenna Belton and Jo Kremer, kept their hot streak going with four wins to improve to 14-1 on the season. Belton and Kremer also made history as the first-ever No. 5 pair to win the conference’s weekly award.

Cal, the Trojans’ next opponent, was on an eight-match winning streak of its own before being downed by St. Mary’s College last Friday, 3-2. The Golden Bears are currently 5-2 on the road this season and will look to pull the upset at Merle Norman Stadium on Tuesday, but history is not on their side as Cal has never defeated USC in dual play.

In fact, the Trojans posted a pair of sweeps in the programs’ last two meetings. The last dual match between USC and Cal took place in the second round of the inaugural
Pac-12 Championships last April, which was also hosted at Merle Norman Stadium. There, the Trojans were the top seed, while the Golden Bears were seeded fourth. USC came away with the 5-0 win, advancing to the tournament semifinals and eventually capturing the
first-ever Pac-12 Team Championship.

Nearly a year later, USC will look for more of that same success on Tuesday. As the players gear up to play their fifth dual in four days, Kremer believes that the team will simply need to push through its fatigue and focus on the task at hand.

“I think the most important thing for us is going to be keeping a high level of focus,” Kremer said. “We’re going to be a bit tired after traveling, so we just need to have that mental toughness in order to really push through and play our game. If we can do that, we’ll be fine.”

The match against Cal will begin at approximately 4 p.m., followed immediately after by the pairs tournament at 6 p.m. PST. The dual will also be broadcast on Pac-12 Network.