USC gets set to play in Arizona State Tournament

Coming off a dominant run in 2017 which saw them finish as national champions for the third -straight year, the No. 1 beach volleyball team will look to come out of the gates strong for the 2018 season.

Senior Jenna Belton returns a shot at the net against LMU last season. Katie Chin | Daily Trojan

The team will strive to carry on the momentum that helped them secure a national championship, this weekend at the Arizona State Tournament, where they will face Pac-12 foe Arizona State, in-state rival Cal Poly and Big-12 opponent Nebraska.

Cal Poly will be the most formidable threat to the Trojans over the weekend, as they placed as high as No. 14 in last year’s AVCA poll. The Arizona State Sun Devils will also prove to be a dangerous threat to the Trojans as they rode a six-game winning streak into the Pac-12 tournament last season before falling to the Trojans.

Although the defending champion Trojans will be favorites in all of their matches over the weekend, they understand the challenges that a new season brings and the importance of continuing to get better.

According to head coach Anna Collier, the team has made it a point of emphasis to understand that the past is exactly that.

“We talk a lot about not having done anything yet,” Collier said. “This team has done nothing. Even though we have a lot of the same people, we really recognize that we haven’t even won a match yet. Let’s concentrate on us starting our legacy, our history and our winning streak, and I think that helps settle everyone down.”

Although the Trojans are looking to replace five starters from last year’s national championship team, they understand a “next man up” mentality is necessary to be successful heading into the season opener. Among the players leading the charge will be returning seniors Jenna Belton, Terese Cannon and Jo Kremer. Kremer, a former Pac-12 all-academic team honoree, was adamant in her willingness to take on a bigger role in her final season.

“Personally, I want to improve on my leadership abilities as a senior. I really want to be a leader that can take us all the way to NCAA’s at the end of the year,” Kremer said.

As a senior leader, Kremer also anticipated that while there are certain adjustments to be made, the team will be able to kick into another gear once the season starts.

“As a team because we are so new and young, I think we are gonna improve on our partner relationships and our whole team dynamic once we get into season,” Kremer said. “We’re gonna get really close, and have a good time winning together, and supporting each other.”

As far as lineups for the weekend’s tournament, Collier will look to a healthy mixture of experience and youth in the lineup to jumpstart the Trojans.

“We’ll have a freshman and an upperclassmen for the first 3 pairs and some strong seniors at the 4 and 5,” she said. “We want to have a good, solid team at each flight.”

The Trojans will look to sweep the weekend tournament and return home to Los Angeles with three key wins to start the season as a showdown with perennial beach volleyball powerhouses Pepperdine and UCLA loom the week after.