After knocking off top-ranked UCLA for the second time this season, No. 2 USC has the luxury of waiting to see who it plays Saturday in the Pac-12 Championship final.
The Trojans, who beat UCLA 3-2 Friday on USC’s campus to square their season series at two apiece, get the winner of UCLA (30-2) and Cal (22-8). They play at 11 a.m. Pacific and the winner takes on USC (27-4) at 1:30 p.m.
Up the road on Zuma Beach in Malibu, the Big West tournament continues with No. 5 Hawai’i, No. 8 Cal Poly, No. 12 Long Beach State, and CSUN remaining after Friday’s first day of action.
The recaps follow and so does a photo gallery from the Pac-12 tourney at Merle Norman Stadium with shots from VolleyballMag.com photo editor Ed Chan and contributor Jim Wolf.
“I told the girls,” USC coach Anna Collier said, ” ‘You know what? You can’t have any more fun than this. This is what life is all about, working hard, being challenged, playing good volleyball, and executing what you’ve worked on.’
“That’s what makes it so much fun, because you’ve put in the hard work, and it paid off.’
USC won the first two NCAA beach championships before relinquishing the title to UCLA last year.
USC is hoping to not only win the Pac-12 title, but also get the No. 1 NCAA tournament seed when the eight-team bracket is announced Sunday night. Both the Trojans and Bruins are locks to be in the field.
After a long day at USC, the USC-UCLA dual came down to the No. 1 pairs when Abril Bustamante and Tina Graudina defeated Megan McNamara and Nicole McNamara 21-13, 18-21, 15-10. UCLA won at Nos. 2 and 5, while USC won Nos. 3 and 4.
It was at No. 4 when Joy Dennis and Maja Kaiser defeated UCLA’s Savvy Simo and Lea Monkhouse 21-16, 21-15.
“Maja and Joy, they train like that for us, but we don’t see them compete like that, so, for me, that was special,” Collier said. “They’ve been working hard and I’ve been hammering them. I truly have, I’ve been saying, ‘We’ve got to get this done. You do it here, there’s no reason why it can’t happen here.’
“So for them to step up like that, in that kind of a match, and play well, I really thought they held their composure. They’re one of those teams that get over-anxious and overplays the ball and over-everything, but I thought that they held their composure, and stayed patient, and that to me was huge.”
Surprising Arizona State (21-14) finished fourth, Arizona (25-6) and Stanford (11-18) tied for fifth, Washington (9-16)and Oregon (5-11-1) finished seventh, and Utah (5-9) finished in ninth.
In the Big West, top-seeded Hawai’i (25-7) swept CSUN 5-0 and Cal Poly (23-10) swept both Sacramento State and Long Beach.
Cal Poly and Long Beach are both hoping for bids to the NCAA field. The NCAA takes three teams from the East, three from the West, and two at-larges, so Saturday’s results could go a long way in their respective cases.
Long Beach (20-10) had two 5-0 sweeps of CSU Bakersfield (8-14) and UC Davis (8-10) but were in turn swept by Cal Poly. CSUN also two sweeps, defeating UC Davis and CSU Bakersfield, but were swept by Hawai’i.
CSU Bakersfield, UC Davis, and Sacramento State were eliminated Friday.
Hawai’i’s plays Cal Poly at 10 a.m. Pacific, while Long Beach State faces CSUN at 11. The final is at 1 p.m.