Beach volleyball readies for Pac-12 trifecta 

USC beach volleyball women team number two and number ten hyping each other.
Graduate student Caroline Schafer celebrates after a point during USC’s match against Houston Baptist Tuesday. | Colin Huang | Daily Trojan

USC beach volleyball will face three Pac-12 opponents — Utah, Arizona State and Washington  —  in the Pac-12 South Invitational Saturday and Sunday at Bear Down Beach in Tucson, Ariz. The Trojans look to continue their success and build upon their 11-game win streak.

Two weeks ago, the Trojans traveled to Florida to compete in the Stetson Sun-N-Sand Invitational and the FIU Surf & Turf Invitational. USC went undefeated on the trip, going 6-0 and dropping just two sets overall. 

At the Stetson Sun-N-Sand Invitational, the then-ranked No. 2 Trojans took on No. 4 Florida State, No. 12 Florida Atlantic, Tampa and No. 18 Stetson. USC swept all but the Seminoles, dropping only one set on court five. 

The Trojans swept No. 19 Florida International 5-0 and beat Florida Gulf Coast 4-1 on the Lummus Park Beach Courts in Miami at the FIU Surf & Turf Invitational. The win over the Panthers marked senior Tina Graudina’s 100th win with the Trojans — the 10th Trojan all-time to do so for beach volleyball.

USC had no problems on their home court Tuesday, marking their seventh and eighth sweeps on the season against Houston Baptist and CSU Bakersfield. The pair of sophomore Delaynie Maple and graduate student Julia Scoles went on to receive their 13th straight victory after beating the Runners’ freshman Sophia Hladyniuk and junior Hana Makonova, 21-12 and 21-8. 

Head Coach Dain Blanton said he was pleased with the Trojans’ performance in Florida, especially the win over Florida State. He looks to carry the momentum into this weekend’s matches.

“[Winning] gives you confidence,” said Blanton in an interview with the Daily Trojan. “But our focus is on, ‘Can we reach our potential as individuals and come together as a team and reach our potential as a team?’”

For USC, a winning streak is not the most important priority. Blanton and his team said that they stress improvement each and every day and how they can develop into better volleyball players.

“I feel like the majority of us aren’t really focused too much on the record, but more about each game individually and what we can learn from each of them,” graduate student Sunny Villapando said. “This team is really process-oriented, and we’re not really focused too much on the outcome, more about how we can prepare each match.”

No. 17 Arizona will host seven other Pac-12 schools in addition to No. 3 USC: No. 1 UCLA, Washington, Oregon, Utah, No. 11 California, No. 18 Stanford and ASU. 

USC will play three of the nine teams at the invitational. The Trojans have never lost to each of the three teams they are set to play this weekend. 

Regardless, USC still plans on playing with the same intensity as any other opponent. 

“All of us are always ready to go,” Villapando said. “We treat every opponent with the same amount of respect.”

The Trojans begin competition Saturday at 2 p.m. against Utah. The Utes are 4-4 on the season, coming off of a loss against Colorado Mesa, 2-3. They face No. 7 Grand Canyon in Phoenix on Friday before the tournament in Tucson. 

Following the afternoon match, USC plays Saturday night under the lights at 7 p.m. against Arizona State. The Sun Devils competed in TCU’s Fight in the Fort last week, winning three of their four matches; their one loss coming against TCU, 0-5. The Sun Devils played against Grand Canyon and Stanford Thursday. The Trojans are 13-0 all-time against ASU.

USC plays just one match at 11:45 a.m. Sunday against Washington. Prior to their trip to Tucson, the Huskies traveled to Tempe for two matches against Stanford and Grand Canyon.

“The girls carry the flag more than anything,” Blanton said. “They’re the example, and they’re the ones that are the face of the program.”

The Trojans begin play on Saturday with two matches and the third on Sunday.