Southern Cal captures inaugural Beach Volleyball Championship
GULF SHORES, Ala. -- Top-ranked USC (34-2) cemented its place in history with a 3-0 win over No. 2 Florida State (32-3) by a 3-0 count in the inaugural NCAA Beach Volleyball Championship on the sands of Gulf Place on Sunday, May 8. The Women of Troy completed the year on an incredible 30-match winning streak and secured back-to-back national titles in beach volleyball as the defending AVCA champions of 2015. Junior All-Americans Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes were chosen to the NCAA all-tournament team as the pair from the No. 1 position and sophomore Jo Kremer and senior Zoe Nightingale were all-tournament selections at the No. 5 spot.
The NCAA crown is USC's 124th team title and the school's 101st NCAA championship; the 17th NCAA crown won by a USC women's team. The Trojans faced the top-seeded Seminoles twice and dropped just one point in four duals. USC's beach team repeated a piece of history the Trojans' indoor volleyball team accomplished in 1981 as the first-ever NCAA women's indoor volleyball champions. That team also won the previous national championship (the 1980 AIAW title).
The Women of Troy went into the record books as the first-ever NCAA champion when Claes and Hughes completed the 21-15, 21-10 win over Julie Brown and Jace Pardon at the top court. The win solidified the duo's undefeated season (48-0) and extended their winning streak to an incredible 73 victories. Claes and Hughes dropped just one set all season and gave up only six sets through the duration of their streak.
USC's first point came from court five where Kremer and Nightingale earned their 17th straight win to finish the year 32-6. The tandem defeated Nikki Esposito and Macy Jerger, 21-14, 21-12, to set the tone for the dual. At the No. 3 position, juniors Nicolette Martin and Allie Wheeler fought hard to get a 23-21 win over Vanessa Freire and Sierra Sanchez in the first set. A four-point lead at 16-12 in the second wasn't enough as the Seminole duo came back to win, 21-18. The third went to a nine-all tie before Martin and Wheeler scored a 6-1 run to finish off a 15-10 win. Martin and Wheeler finished the season 36-5 and earned a crucial point for the Trojans.
Following the win by Claes and Hughes, play was stopped at the second and fourth courts. On two, junior Sophie Bukovec and senior Alexa Strange led Victoria Paranagua and Kristina Pellitteri, 1-0, in the match with a 21-13 win in the first, but trailed, 17-16, in the second. On four, sophomore Jenna Belton and freshman Abril Bustamante also won their first set, 21-13, over Katie Horton and Annie Montgomery, and led, 17-16, when play was halted.