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NCAA beach: USC, Florida State, LSU, UCLA breaking away from the pack

The week’s NCAA beach volleyball play went largely as expected, with USC and Florida State staying unbeaten. Through the fourth week of competition, USC, Florida State, LSU and UCLA have distanced themselves from their competition. 

Hawai’i made its debut, beginning the season 2-2 after battling 20-mile-an-hour-plus winds at UC Davis.

Our rundown of the AVCA top 10 follows, with the latest AVCA beach poll, pairs of the week, undefeated pairs, and notes from around the nation. 

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USC’s Sammy Slater runs down a high line shot/Ed Chan,

No. 1 USC (10-0)
This week the unbeaten Trojans added two victories, a home sweep of Bakersfield and a 4-1 road win over No. 7 Pepperdine. In their 10 victories, the stingy Trojans are 47-3, despite facing ranked opponents in nine of their 10 outings. 

Next up: USC leaves the confines of Southern California heads to Tucson for the Pac-12 South Invitational to play Oregon and Utah. Of course, college beach fans are focused on the following week, when the best of the East and West face off as both Florida State and LSU head west.

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FSU’s Caitlin Moon runs down a dig/Michael Gomez photo

No. 2 Florida State (17-0, 10-0)
The Seminoles added four victories at the FAU Beach Bash in Paradise. FSU swept both No. 20 FGCU and UAB, but faced significant challenges against No. 16 Stetson (4-1) and hosts No. 12 FAU (3-2).

Although the FAU dual was decided by a single match, FSU clinched quickly, winning the first three on courts 5, 4, and 3, before FAU three-set matches on courts 1 and 2.

Of note, court 5’s Kate Privett and Jenna Johnson continued their win streak and are now 12-0.

Next up: Florida State heads to South Carolina for the Gamecock Grand Slam next weekend, facing No. 17 Georgia State, No. 16 Stetson, No. 9 TCU and hosts No. 15 South Carolina.

No. 3 LSU (14-2, 3-1)
The LSU beach invitational was good for the hosts as the Tigers went 5-0 against New Orleans, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, and Southern Miss, plus they had 4-1 wins against No. 15 South Carolina and Houston Baptist.

“When we started the season we knew we had a good team,” LSU coach Russell Brock said. “As we have a pretty good sample size through the first few weeks, it’s clear that we are trending in the right direction.”

Next up: LSU takes a well-earned week off, then goes west to face one of its toughest challenges of the season, facing No. 4 UCLA at home twice Saturday and No. 1 USC twice Sunday.

No. 4 UCLA beach (6-1):
The Bruins were off, but will face No. 7 Pepperdine twice in Malibu on Thursday before heading to the weekend’s Pac South tournament against No. 11 Cal, Arizona State and Oregon.

No. 5 Cal Poly (8-3):
Cal Poly stayed unbeaten in the confines of the Swanson Beach Volleyball Complex, sweeping Boise State but were tested by No. 14 Arizona 3-2. Poly is 4-0 since opening its new beach facility last weekend.

No. 1 pair Emily Sonny and Macy Gordon and No. 2 pair Amy Ozee and Jayelin Lombard won both their matches for Cal Poly. 

Next up: The Mustangs will stay at home, hosting fellow Big West squads Bakersfield, UC Davis, No. 19 Long Beach State, CSUN and No. 10 Hawai’i. 

No. 6 Loyola Marymount (12-2):
LMU swept four matches this week, a pair against CSUN Thursday, and wins against Utah and The Master’s University Saturday in Santa Clarita.

“It was another solid week for us,” LMU coach John Mayer said. “The big goal for us is to improve and to learn each day. Our players have been on a mission and continue to grow which is what’s it’s all about at LMU.”

Next up: the Lions face Concordia and No. 7 Pepperdine at Irvine Saturday, then head up to Malibu for a rematch against the Waves Tuesday.

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Pepperdine’s Gracie Pedersen plays the ball while Peyton Lewis watches/Ed Chan,

No. 7 Pepperdine (2-7):
The Waves split a pair of home matches this past weekend, sweeping Concordia Irvine and then falling to USC 4-1. No. 2 pair Carly Skjodt and Brook Bauer ended Hailey Harward’s and Julia Scoles’ undefeated run to gain Pepperdine’s only point against the Trojans (21-13, 21-19). Pepperdine is the only team to take an individual match against USC, having done so in three of its four meetings.

“I’m happy for the team this weekend,” Pepperdine coach Marcio Sicoli said. “We were committed to improving on and off the court and we did it. I look forward to facing these next opponents as we keep grinding through the toughest schedule we’ve had to date.”

Next up: Pepperdine will host No. 4 UCLA for a pair of duals Thursday, then face No. 7 Loyola Marymount and Concordia in Irvine on Saturday.

No. 8 Grand Canyon (7-3)
Grand Canyon had the week off, but returns to action for home duals Thursday and Friday against No. 18 Stanford, Arizona State and Utah (Senior Day).

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TCU’s Rochelle Scott celebrates in a match against Stephen F Austin/Sharon Ellman, TCU

No. 9: TCU (14-3, 11-1)
TCU had a flawless weekend, winning all 20 matches at home in the Fight in the Fort. The Horned Frogs defeated Louisiana-Monroe twice, Texas A&M-Kingsville, and Stephen F. Austin. TCU dropped only one set in the 20 matches this weekend.

“The weekend went great,” TCU coach Hector Gutierrez said. “We went 4-0 and they were solid wins all over. The girls played at a high level and never allowed their confidence to be shaken all weekend. 

“We didn’t drop a set on the first day, that’s a milestone for the program and the second day was almost the same, we lost a set but still won every match. I’m really happy for our team to get such nice results like this at home. It shows that we’re working in the right direction, with the goal obviously being to go to nationals in Gulf Shores.”

Next up: TCU heads to South Carolina for the Gamecock Grand Slam March 27-28, with duals against South Carolina and Georgia on Saturday, Stetson and Florida State Sunday.

No. 10 Hawai’i (2-2):
The Beachbows finally kicked off their 2021 season Monday and Tuesday at UC Davis. Monday they dropped their first dual to Stanford (4-1) before rebounding against UC Davis (5-0). Tuesday they fell to No. 11 Cal before sweeping UCD for the second time in two days.

Hawai’i’s lone win against Stanford and Cal were both at the No. 5 pairings, with Anna Maidment and Kaylee Glagau (21-9, 21-19) winning against Stanford, and Kylin Loker and Riley Wagoner (21-17, 21-12) prevailing against Cal.

Hawaii coach Angelica Ljungqvist acknowledged the Beachbows’ lack of competition.

“We got a late jump on the season and it showed in our first two days of competition,” Ljungqvist said. “We have a lot to learn and we need to get better, but I’m confident in our young ladies and look forward to seeing their progress throughout the year.”

Next up: Hawai’i heads south to Central California for Cal Poly’s The Challenge, with five matches against UC Davis, CSUN, CSU Bakersfield, No. 19 Long Beach State and No. 5 Cal Poly.

AVCA beach poll
The AVCA poll showed little movement this week. The top five remained the same: No. 1 USC (12 votes), No. 2 Florida State (2 votes), No. 3 LSU, No. 4 UCLA, and No. 5 Cal Poly.

Loyola Marymount moved up a spot to No. 6 as Hawai’i dropped to No. 10 following their first tournament. Pepperdine, Grand Canyon, and TCU edged their way up one spot to Nos. 7-9. No. 11 Cal, No. 12 FAU, and No. 13 FIU held their spots.

No. 14 Arizona and No. 15 South Carolina each advanced one place. No. 16 Stetson dropped two slots, while No. 18 and No. 19 Long Beach state swapped spots. No. 20 Florida Gulf Coast entered the top 20 for the first time this year. Tulane dropped out but received votes, along with Coastal Carolina, UAB, and Boise State. 

Pairs of the Week:
FAU’s top pair, Erica Brok and Mackenzie Morris, 9-3,received the AVCA Pair of the Week nod after a 4-0 run on home sand. The Owls defeated Stetson’s Ana Carolina de Almeida Costa and Carly Perales and UAB’s Mikayla Law-Heese and Rachel Tum in three sets Friday, then beating FGCU’s Giovanna Borgiotti and Kirstine Garder and Florida State’s Caitlin Moon and Alain Chacon in straight sets.

ASUN — Coastal Carolina’s Irena Drobnjak and Sarlota Svobodova earned ASUN Pair of the Week honors for March 17 after running up a 5-0 record at the No. 1 pair against Jacksonville, Mercer (twice), Chattanooga and Southern Miss.

The honor is the pairs’ first such honor, Coastal Carolina’s second pair of the week award in program history.

Big West — Cal Poly’s Emily Sonny and Macy Gordon are the Big West Pair of the Week after defeating both Boise State (21-18, 21-19) and No. 14 Arizona (21-14, 21-13).

The honor is the second weekly honor for Sonny and Gordon, now 7-3. 

CCSA — LSU’s No. 1 pair of Kristen Nuss and Taryn Kloth were the CCSA’s Pair of the Week for March 17 (the announcement comes out after we post this report). The award is the fifth career honor for Nuss, the second for Kloth. They were 5-0 at last week’s March to May, sporting an 18-0 record. 

Pac-12 — Two-time AVCA All-American Tina Graudina and Sammy Slater of USC are the Pac-12 Pair of the Week for March 18.  Graudina and Slater defeated Long Beach State, Loyola Marymount and Bakersfield in straight sets, and an undefeated 10-0 at the top slot.

Still undefeated
Only six pairs are still unbeaten.

At the No. 1 slot, LSU’s Kristen Nuss and Taryn Kloth are 18-0, while USC’s Tina Graudina and Sammy Slater are 10-0.

There are no undefeated teams at the no. 2 pairing, with FSU’s Torrey Van Winden and Keara Rutz and USC’s Julia Scoles and Hailey Harward sustaining losses last week.

Florida State’s Sara Putt and Maddie Anderson are the only undefeated pair at No. 3 at 17-0.

Likewise, Grand Canyon’s No. 4 Allanis Navas and Paula Hoffman are the only unbeaten pair at No. 4 with a 10-0 record.

At No. 5, both Florida State’s Kate Privett and Jenna Johnson (12-0) and Nicole Nourse and Audrey Nourse (10-0) are still undefeated, although FSU mixed it up against UAB this week, with Privett winning with Avery Poppinga. 

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Chattanooga gets their first wins in program history/Mocs photo

Around the Nation
Beth Van Fleet reached her 150th career win at the helm of the Georgia State Panthers this past weekend, with GSU wins over Texas A&M (4-1), Central Arkansas (4-1), and Spring Hill (5-0) at the NOLA Classic. Van Fleet, the CCSA coach of the year in 2016, is in her eighth year as Georgia State’s head coach.

The second-year Chattanooga beach volleyball program (0-5) secured its first pairs wins in program history this week. The Mocs’ Baylee Young and Jordan Krege won at the No. 1 pairing, defeating North Alabama’s Paula Klemperer and Natalie Kordt (21-17, 22-20) and Maya Dickson and Taylor Seney (21-19, 23-21) in the second match.

Full scores and results can be found at

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Concordia’s Alexis Dirige extends for the dig/Ed Chan,