Beach volleyball stays hot, tops Cal in midweek dual

The top-ranked USC beach volleyball team continued its dominance on Tuesday, as each court posted straight-set sweeps to help the No. 1 Trojans shut the door on the visiting California Golden Bears and secure a 5-0 dual victory on the sands of Merle Norman Stadium. The win pushes USC’s winning streak to 47 consecutive matches and improves their record to 36-4 all-time on their home courts.

In the first flight of action, the Trojans (17-0) got a point on the board with a win at court four from sophomore Abril Bustamante and freshman Joy Dennis, who posted a 21-18, 21-12 win over Cal’s Nicole Anderson and Iya Lindahl. Soon after, USC took a 2-0 lead when juniors Jenna Belton and Jo Kremer recorded a 21-17, 21-18 victory over Bridget Gustafson and Abby Waldburger on court five. The two USC pairs improved their dual records to 11-4 and 15-1, respectively, while Belton and Kremer also won their 13th dual in a row. To complete the first flight, sophomore Katrina Kernochan and
freshman Lainy Thomas won their exhibition match (21-9, 21-13) against Madison Dueck and Katie Regalia.

It did not take long for the Trojans to nab their third point, as seniors Sophie Bukovec and Allie Wheeler swept Bryce Bark and Camille Stepanof on court three (21-14, 21-6) to clinch the dual. The victory would improve Bukovec and Wheeler’s dual match record to 11-3 on the season. USC’s next point came on the backs of seniors Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes at court one, who posted a 21-11, 21-6 win over Jessica Gaffney and Mia Merino to boost their own winning streak to 92 matches in a row and move to 17-0 on the season together. The final point came from senior Nicolette Martin and junior Terese Cannon on court two, as they defeated Grace Campbell and Olivia Rodberg by a 21-14, 22-20 score. The newly minted Pac-12 Pair of the Week improves to 13-4 on the season and has now won six consecutive matches.

The dual win was the Trojans’ 10th in a row at Merle Norman Stadium, their 79th in their last 81 matches, and their fourth straight against Cal. While the Golden Bears came into Los Angeles with an upset on their minds, Wheeler liked the poise with which her team played today.

“Cal is a great team and they have some really good competitors, but I think we just stayed disciplined and played together,” Wheeler said. “We played our style of volleyball and really took care of business today.”

There is no rest for the weary, as the Trojans now prepare for two tournaments in Santa Cruz and Monterey, Calif. this weekend. On Saturday, USC kicks off the San Francisco Invitational with a dual match against host University of San Francisco at 9 a.m., followed by a pairs tournament against Saint Mary’s at approximately 12:20 p.m. The next day, USC will drive down to Monterey for the Monterey Invitational II, with a dual match doubleheader against Saint Mary’s and San Jose State.

Wheeler is excited to finally make the trip up north for the first time this season.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing my family and playing on the beaches that I grew up playing on,” Wheeler said. “We’re going to go out there and focus on playing our game: solid, competitive USC beach volleyball.”

The Trojans will take on the Gaels at 9:30 a.m., followed by a noon meeting with the Spartans. The Trojans own a perfect record against all three teams and will look to reach 50 consecutive wins.