Trojans Defend Home Sand

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USC senior Zoe Nightingale

On senior day, the University of Southern California (20-2) took down Pepperdine (15-3) in a rubber match between the two top-ranked teams by a score of 4-1. The Trojans and Waves had played twice already earlier in the year, splitting those matches, each with a 3-2 score.

Pepperdine drew first blood in the No. 4 pairing as Skylar Caputo and Corinne Quiggle earned the point over USC’s Abril Bustamante and Jenna Belton 23-21, 21-19, but USC drew even when graduate student Zoe Nightingale and sophomore Jo Kremer won a three-set match 21-18,22-24, 15-12 over Samantha Cash and Sarah Seiber. Nightingale and Kremer had dropped both of their matches to Pepperdine in previous meetings.

Unsurprisingly, Sara Hughes and Kelly Claes won their match on court No. 1 to put USC up 2-1. Claes and Hughes, who have established themselves as college beach volleyball’s most dominant team, defeated Taylor Racich and Heidi Dyer 21-16, 21-17. The top Trojan duo has won 53 consecutive matches, a streak that dates back to 2015.

On court No. 2, senior Alexa Strange and Sophie Bukovec, who had lost both previous matches against Pepperdine, exacted their revenge against Kaity Baily and Delaney Knudsen 21-15, 21-13 to clinch the win and add another tally in the victory column for the Trojans.

Finally, USC’s No. 3 pair of Allie Wheeler and Nicolette Martin closed out Pepperdine’s Madalyn Roh and Anika Wilson to complete the 4-1 Trojan win 25-23, 15-21, 15-12.

The victory extends USC’s streak to 16 and puts the Trojans in the driver’s seat as they look ahead to the NCAA championship in Gulf Shores, Alabama, May 6-8. The win should maintain USC’s No. 1 ranking and put it in the enviable position of not facing Pepperdine or Florida Statethe only teams the Trojans have lost to this seasonuntil the winners bracket finals of the national tournament.

This weekend, USC heads to Texas Christian to face New Mexico and Louisiana Monroe, while Pepperdine next takes the sand against Long Beach State on Tuesday, April 19.

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Ed Chan is the Publisher/Director of Photography at VolleyballMag.com. Ed has been involved in the sport for nearly 40 years as a photographer, facility owner, official, coach, and player.

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