Beach volleyball championship: USC wins back-to-back NCAA titles in 3-2 win over Pepperdine
GULF SHORES, Ala. — The No. 1-ranked and top-seeded USC beach volleyball team (38-1) fought through a triple three-set finish and emerged with a 3-2 win over third-seeded No. 3 Pepperdine (27-5) to capture a second consecutive NCAA title on Sunday. It is the program’s third straight national championship (AVCA 2015) and the school’s 127th overall team title. The beach crown gives USC 104 all-time NCAA team championships and is the school’s 20th women’s NCAA title.
USC finishes the season with a school-record 38 victories and on a six-match winning streak. The win also extends the Trojans’ winning streak in Gulf Shores to 12 consecutive duals. The Women of Troy improved to 10-8 all-time against the Waves and have now won 100 of their last 103 duals.
In a staggered start format, the bottom two courts played first. The Waves scored the first point at court four where Deahna Kraft and Anika Wilson defeated sophomore Abril Bustamante and freshman Joy Dennis, 21-14, 21-17. But the Trojans equalized the dual from court five where juniors Jenna Belton and Jo Kremer had the answer with a 21-18, 21-15 win over Nikki Lyons and Sarah Seiber.
Following a break, the Waves claimed first-set wins on each of the top two courts and the Trojans won at No. 3, but all three matches went to three sets to determine a champion. At two, seniors Sophie Bukovec and Allie Wheeler forced a third set, but fell to Brittany Howard and Corinne Quiggle, 21-18, 16-21, 15-13. After a tight first set at the top court, seniors Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes stormed back to win and evened the dual score at two-all, 19-21, 21-13, 15-10.
With all eyes on the third court, junior Terese Cannon and senior Nicolette Martin completed the victory with their 15-13 win in the final frame. The duo won their first set, 21-19, on the strength of a two-point comeback down the stretch. They tried to close out the second but couldn’t come all the way back before the Waves claimed a 21-18 win. In the third, Cannon and Martin took a 12-10 lead, but Pepperdine stayed within a point for the next four rallies. In the end, Cannon put the final ball to the sand to score the win and secure USC’s third consecutive national championship.
Three of the Trojans’ pairs were honored on the All-Tournament team, including Claes and Hughes as the No. 1 pair, Cannon and Martin as the No. 3 pair, and Bustamante and Dennis as the No. 4 pair.