Beach volleyball continues a dominant season

Junior Audrey Nourse goes for a spike during USC’s victory against Houston Baptist March 22. Nourse and her twin junior Nicole Nourse swept their matchup. (Colin Huang | Daily Trojan)

USC beach volleyball extended its winning streak to 18 duels after a dominant weekend in Manhattan Beach at the UCLA Invitational. The Trojans dropped just two sets in four duels and overcame three top-10 teams in the tournament. USC is now 19-1 on the season. 

The No. 3 Trojans played two matches on Saturday and two on Sunday at the Manhattan Beach Pier. Among USC, the other teams at the invitational were No. 1 UCLA, No. 2 TCU, No. 5 LMU, No. 6 LSU, No. 9 Hawaii, No. 15 FIU and Utah. 

After losing its second game of the season to the Bruins, USC has yet to drop a match. 

Head Coach Dain Blanton was pleased with how his team performed last weekend. 

“It was nice to finally see those teams,” said Blanton in a phone interview. “[It was] really great to see them and to perform the way that we did. The girls from the first spot all the way down to the fifth spot were ready to go.”

USC kicked off the tournament Saturday morning with a win against the Tigers. The Trojans dropped just one set to LSU, winning 4-1. USC’s dropped point came from court four after losing a three-set battle. The Trojans improved to 5-2 all-time against the Tigers.

USC’s second match of the tournament came Saturday afternoon against Hawaii. The Rainbow Wahine played in the Mapes Beach Invitational on Thursday prior to this weekend’s tournament, where they nearly upset the Horned Frogs in a 3-2 duel and were swept by UCLA 5-0. TheyIt beat the Panthers 3-2 in Manhattan Beach Saturday morning.

The Rainbow Wahine were no problem for the Trojans, as USC came away with a 5-0 sweep. In their first meeting since the 2019 NCAA Tournament, the Trojans won four of their matches in straight sets. 

On court three, however, sophomore Delaynie Maple and former Wahine graduate Julia Scoles fought to win a three-set duel. Maple and Scoles, despite dropping their 31-set win streak Saturday, are 20-0 this season following this weekend’s tournament.

USC built upon Saturday’s success with two wins on Sunday. The Trojans took down previously undefeated TCU and Florida International.

The Horned Frogs were 28-0 before their meeting with USC. After beating No. 1 UCLA twice — once on Thursday and once on Saturday — the Trojans delivered No. 2 TCU its first loss of the season on Sunday. 

USC won on courts one through four, and the Horned Frogs scored their single point in the duel with a win on court five. 

“Any time you beat good teams and any time you have a streak going, you try to build confidence,” Blanton said. 

The Trojans finished the weekend with a sweep over the Panthers. The win marked USC’s 12th sweep of the season.

Sophomore Megan Kraft and graduate Sammy Slater improved to 14-0 on the season. Senior Tina Graudina and graduate Hailey Harward picked up their 15th straight win. 

With the Pac-12 Beach Volleyball Championship just under a month away, the Trojans look to continue their success until the end of the season. They have just two more road tournaments and senior day at home against UCLA on April 22 before the tournament kicks off. 

“Our long-term strategy is to take every opportunity to get a little bit better,” Blanton said. “I think we’re doing that right now.”

The Trojans will head north this weekend for the Pac-12 North Invitational at Stanford Beach Volleyball Stadium. USC will compete in four duels, three of them against nationally-ranked opponents — No. 8 Stanford and No. 13 California on Saturday and No. 17 Arizona and Oregon on Sunday.