Beach volleyball goes 3-1 in Pac-12 North Invitational

On its quest to snap a three-match losing streak, the beach volleyball team traveled to Seattle over the weekend to compete in the Pac-12 North Invitational. There, the Trojans finished 3-1, only losing to Cal on Sunday.

Junior Abril Bustamante (left) and freshman Tina Graudina (right) work together to return a shot. Ling Luo | Daily Trojan

The weekend started smoothly for the Women of Troy as they faced the unranked Washington Huskies (10-11). Although Washington played hard to keep up with USC — forcing three-set decisions on two of the courts — USC was able to pull away for a 4-1 dual win.

Despite how the outcome was already decided with wins on three courts, the Huskies fought valiantly on the first and second courts. Going up against the Trojans’ most consistent duo of junior Abril Bustamante and freshman Tina Graudina, Washington’s Jordan Anderson and Kimmy Gardner came out as the aggressors, winning the first set 20-22. Despite falling behind early, Graudina and Bustamante were able to fight back, win the second set 21-14 and put Anderson and Gardner away in the third set 15-9. Washington’s only point of the dual came on the second court in a three set showdown where sophomores Joy Dennis and Cammie Dorn were eventually bested by Destiny Julye and Courtney Schwan.

Not long after their victory, USC ran into adversity when facing No. 14 Stanford (16-10). Initially, it looked as if the match would be a repeat of the blowout that occurred on March 25 where the Trojans swept the Cardinal 5-0, but the Trojans were able to pull together a win against the NorCal team.

USC took the first points of the match behind the continued excellence of their most consistent pairs. Bustamante and Graudina defeated Morgan Hentz and Amelia Smith while Cannon and Slater took down Kate Formico and Catherine Raquel.

Stanford would then punch back behind Courtney Bowen and Sunny Villapando, defeating Dennis and Dorn. Stanford’s Shannon Richardson and Blake Sharp also took down USC seniors Jenna Belton and Jo Kremer.

In the end, it was a showdown between the fourth court pairings of USC’s Poletto and Hallgren taking on Stanford’s Payton Chang and Caitlin Keefe to decide the dual. Poletto and Hallgren would have to fight back from losing the first set 19-21 before winning the second set 21-14 and eventually taking the third 15-11 to sneak the win for the Trojans.

Despite avoiding an upset the day before, USC was stunned by the No. 13 California Bears (19-6) Sunday morning. Just as they did against Stanford, the Trojans came out firing on courts one and three with Bustamante and Graudina winning their individual match-up easily and Cannon and Slater also taking care of business. However, that would be the last of the good news for USC.

The typically reliable senior pairing of Kremer and Belton was unable to hold off Grace Campbell and Maddie Micheletti. On court two, the struggling duo of Dennis and Dorn lost to the Cardinal’s Jessica Gaffney and Iya Lindahl. With the dual knotted up at 2-2, it was once again up to Poletto and Hallgren to decide the Trojans’ fate. In an even, three-set thriller where both sides played exceptionally well, it would be Cal’s Mia Merino and Caroline Schafer coming out on top in the third set 15-13 to complete the upset. California became just the seventh team ever to beat USC in a dual.

Despite the disappointing outcome against Cal, USC had to quickly turn around to take on the Oregon Ducks. The Ducks (2-10), who had only played nine duals all season before going against the Trojans, showed they have a ways to go before they can compete with beach volleyball elite.

USC swept Oregon across the board starting court five with Belton and Kaiser jumping all over Marine Hall-Poirier and Kyra Hanawahine 21-7 and 21-9. Soon thereafter, Graudina and Bustamante shut down Lindsey Vander Weide and August Raskie. Meanwhile, Cannon and Slater, along with Poletto and Hallgren,  won on the third and fourth courts. The most encouraging sign from this matchup was on court two where Dennis and Dorn picked up their first and only win of the weekend with a win over Taylor Agost and Josie Cole.

Up next for USC (20-10) is a double-header at home Tuesday against Grand Canyon and Long Beach State.