NCAA beach volleyball: USC caps weekend by beating UCLA; TCU, LSU stay unbeaten
This is a recap of a busy beach weekend, proof that the best NCAA volleyball teams are not afraid to schedule tough in the early season.
Most notably, fourth-ranked but two-time defending NCAA champion USC laid down the gauntlet by improving to 6-0 with a weekend-ending, 3-2 victory over No. 1 UCLA. It capped a weekend in which USC went 4-0 with 3-2 victories over No. 12 Cal and No. 7 Stanford and a 4-1 win over No. 16 Washington.
UCLA, which had won its first nine matches this young season, went 3-0 at home in the Pac-12 South Invitational, sweeping Oregon and Arizona State on Saturday before doing the same to Utah. Sunday the Bruins moved to USC.
The Women of Troy have now won 42 consecutive duals dating back one year to March 5, 2022. The Trojans also improved to 78-11 all-time at Merle Norman Stadium and have won 13 straight home duals. USC goes to 22-14 all-time in duals against the Bruins and has won six straight over its crosstown rival.
UCLA took the first two points of the dual with wins at the Nos. 2 and 4 positions. On four, Olivia Bakos and Bailey Showalter went the distance but fell, 15-13, in the third to former Trojan Haley Hallgren and partner Rileigh Powers.
The comeback began at the top court where juniors Megan Kraft and Delaynie Maple completed a 23-21, 21-18 win over Lexy Denaburg and Abby Van Winkle to improve to 6-0 on the season. Moments later, freshmen Delaney Karl and Gabby Walker evened the dual on their 21-18, 11-21, 15-10 win over Marlie Monserez and Jaden Whitmarsh at the No. 5 position.
Down to the third court, USC twin seniors Audrey Nourse and Nicole Nourse dropped the first set to Peri Brennan and Tessa Van Winkle, 21-15, but fought tooth and nail to take the second, 24-22. The third was tied 15 times but the sisters found themselves on the winning end of a 17-15 finish the take down the previously unbeaten Bruins.
TCU is 8-0 after the No. 3 Horned Frogs finished their weekend trip to Tampa by beating second-ranked Florida State before sweeping Tampa. On Saturday, TCU swept No. 10 Georgia State and FGCU.
Four Horned Frogs went 4-0: Daniela Alvarez, Maria Gonzalez, Hailey Hamlett and Tania Moreno. FSU on Saturday beat No. 6 Grand Canyon 4-1 and swept No. 11 Stetson. Later Sunday, the Seminoles beat FGCU 3-2 and Tampa 4-1.
Fifth-ranked LSU improved to 9-0 with weekend victories over UAB, Tusculum, No. 19 South Carolina, North Alabama and Southeastern Louisiana. All were sweeps except for a 4-1 win over South Carolina.
GCU is 6-2. The Lopes’ trip to Tampa saw them beat Georgia State, Tampa and Stetson.
No. 7 Stanford (9-3) won its other three matches, getting past Washington and Arizona State by 3-2 outcomes before sweeping Utah.
Eighth-ranked Loyola Marymount is 4-0 after winning twice Saturday in Malibu. The Lions beat Houston Christian and Concordia Irvine.
No. 9 Hawai’i is 7-3 after going 4-0 at the Best in the West in Laguna Beach. The Sandbows beat Cal Poly and No. 14 Long Beach State twice each.
Georgia State is 6-2 after splitting its four matches. The Panthers had that loss to GCU, beat Stetson, lost to TCU and finished with a win over FGCU.
Among the matchups next weekend, the Battle for Los Angeles includes USC, UCLA, Long Beach State, GCU, CUI, Stanford and Cal Poly; and at TCU the gathering includes LSU and Southern Miss. Hawai’i is home for Texas, Nebraska, Oregon, Washington and Cal.