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Trophy Time

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During the Trojans' game vs. Colorado on Saturday, USC's female student-athletes were presented their trophy and check for winning the 2015-16 Capital One Cup.

The Capital One Cup recognizes NCAA Division I athletics programs for their cumulative performance across multiple men's and women's sports. The Women of Troy earned their first ever Capital One Cup Trophy by winning two national championships (water polo and beach volleyball) and posting eight total Top-10 finishes (lacrosse, volleyball, golf, swimming, track and indoor track) last season. USC's spring sports helped catapult the program from 17th place at the end of the winter season to the top overall spot.

As part of the presentation, Capital One also presented USC with a $200,000 check for student-athlete scholarships.

Currently, USC's women's soccer, volleyball, golf, cross country and swimming programs are working to keep the Women of Troy atop the college athletics totem pole. Women's swimming heads to the SMU Classic on Friday, while volleyball faces Oregon in Eugene on Friday night. Women's golf will start play in the Stanford Intercollegiate tournament on Friday as well.

21 Pilots

Heading into the 2016-17 season, representatives from each of USC's 21 sports met on top of the AT&T Center for the annual "All 21" photo shoot. The AT&T Center, just two miles from campus, overlooks the skyline of downtown Los Angeles, where the Trojans call home.

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Top row, from left to right: Nick Bell (men's water polo), Nina Kelty (lacrosse), Rebekah Ent (cross country), Anika  Apostalon (women's swimming), Eric Sloan (men's track & field), Courtney Jaco (women's basketball), Karen Chung (women's golf), Lucas Yoder (men's volleyball), Reed Malone (men's swimming), Brianna Daboub (women's water polo), Sara Hughes (beach volleyball), Jeremy Martinez (baseball)

Bottom row, from left to right: Zach Banner (football), Zoe Katz (women's tennis), Jordan McLaughlin (men's basketball), Amalie Iuel (women's track & field), Madara Strautmane (rowing), Nick Crystal (men's tennis), Collin Pollard (men's diving), Taylor Whittingham (women's volleyball), Savannah Levin (women's soccer), Sean Crocker (men's golf), Madison Witt (women's diving)

Championship Season

With six active teams in the national Top 5, including four conference title winners and two programs on undefeated runs, USC is ready for championship season.


Back On Top

USC beach volleyball reclaimed it's No. 1 ranking on Monday after taking down LMU and previously top-ranked Pepperdine at the USAV Beach Collegiate Challenge last weekend. Leading the way for the Women of Troy were Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes, who became the first-ever conference duo to win two Pac-12 Pair of the Week awards in a single season after going 5-0 against LMU and Pepperdine, and 3-0 in the pairs' gold bracket.

The Trojans got off to a fast start last weekend, defeating LMU 5-0 for their 10th sweep this season. Among the highlights of the day was Sophie Bukovec and Alexa Strange's efficient, 21-11, 21-7 victory - the pair's 50th all-time victory.


On Saturday, the Women of Troy battled back from a 2-1 deficit to claim their 15th straight win in the third set of the final match against Pepperdine. USC and Pepperdine traded points early, with Claes and Hughes, along with Jenna Belton and Abril Bustamante, winning on courts one and four to tie the score at four. Nicolette Martin and Allie Wheeler rallied after dropping their first set to push the Trojans past the Waves and back atop the national rankings.


Claes and Hughes are now 27-0 on the year and boast an astounding 52-match winning streak. They are the fourth Trojan duo this season to win Pac-12 Pair of the Week honors.

The Trojans will look to defend their ranking and wrap up their regular season home schedule with a big rematch against Pepperdine this Thursday at 4:30 p.m. PT. The dual will also be Senior Day for Alexa Strange Emily Young. The game will be held at Merle Norman Stadium and also broadcast on Pac-12 Networks.

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Quite A Pair

The unstoppable USC beach volleyball pair of juniors Nicolette Martin and Allie Wheeler were named the first-ever Pac-12 Pair of the Week after going 4-0 in dual matches at the Pepperdine Kick Off last weekend. The dynamic duo dominated from the No. 3 position all weekend to help the Trojans secure wins over No. 3 Hawaii, No. 4 Long Beach State and No. 6 UCLA.


The pair defeated its opponent in both the Hawaii and UCLA duals in straight sets while grinding out tough, three-set victories in both duals against Pepperdine and Long Beach State. Martin and Wheeler's 15-8 third-set win against Long Beach State clinched the match for the Women of Troy.

For more on Martin, Wheeler and the entire defending national champion Trojan team, follow @USCBeach

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Opening Weekend Ws

Tasked with facing four Top 10 teams in less than two days last weekend at the Pepperdine Kick Off, the top-ranked USC women's beach volleyball team emerged on Sunday victorious, but not perfect. The Women of Troy fell to No. 2 Pepperdine, but defeated No. 3 Hawaii, No. 4 Long Beach State and No. 6 UCLA to begin the 2016 season 3-1.

On Saturday, defending pairs' national champions Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes got the ball rolling for the Trojans, winning their match, 21-11, 21-17, to claim the first point against the Wahine. Three more USC pairs would follow suite, giving the Women of Troy a 4-1 victory to start the weekend.


Up against a tough Pepperdine team later that day, the Trojans fell 3-2, snapping their program-long 29-match winning streak. Despite scoring the first point of the dual thanks to a 21-11, 21-17 win by Claes and Hughes, the Women of Troy could not outlast the Waves, losing on courts two, four and five, en route to their first loss of the season.


In need of a rebound performance on Sunday morning, USC came out firing, sweeping crosstown rival UCLA, 5-0, while securing 10 more points in the Crosstown Cup standings. The pair of Sophie Bukovec and Alexa Strange alongside Nicolette Martin and Allie Wheeler secured two quick victories on courts two and three to give the Trojans the head start. Claes and Hughes finished last, defeating UCLA's top pair, 21-19, 27-29, 15-6, to secure the sweep. To watch the rapid reaction following the rivalry match, click here.


The Trojans finished the weekend with another close dual, this time on the winning end of a 3-2 decision against Long Beach State. Tied at two, the match was ultimately decided on court three where juniors Martin and Wheeler gutted out a three-set match, winning 21-10, 16-21, 15-8 to give USC it's third victory this season.


The Women of Troy will play their first matches at home this Thursday and Friday as they host Arizona State, Florida State and Loyola Marymount. The match against the Sun Devils will begin at 6 p.m. at Merle Norman Stadium on Thursday.

Check out all the John McGillen photos from USC's victory on Sunday...


Defending the Throne

The defending national champion USC beach volleyball team will start the season right where it left off, with a No. 1 ranking in the AVCA's Top 25. After a phenomenal 2015 season, in which they finished 28-0 and secured the program's first national title, the Trojans are on the hunt to repeat as champions in the sport's first-ever fully sanctioned NCAA championship.

Click here for a preview of the upcoming season and a look at the ranked opposition on USC's schedule.

The Women of Troy, who also hold a preseason No. 1 ranking by DiG magazine, will be led once again by the All-American duo of Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes, winners of the 2015 AVCA pairs championship. Also returning this year are senior Alexa Strange and juniors Sophie Bukovec, Nicolette Martina and Allie Wheeler.

USC's pursuit of another title begins in March at the Pepperdine Kick Off in Malibu, where the Trojans will take on Hawaii, Pepperdine, UCLA and Long Beach State in a two-day tournament (March 5-6). The team's first home match will be held on Thursday, March 10 against Arizona State and 6 p.m. PT. Be sure to follow @USCBeachVBall for photos, match updates and more all season long.

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Smile Like a Champion

The USC women's beach volleyball team, the reigning national champions, has its sights set on the first NCAA and Pac-12 crowns in the fast-growing sport's short history. But before the grind begins, the Women of Troy smiled pretty on picture day and previewed the season ahead.


Teammate Challenge

The Pac-12 is running a competition to find the best teammates in the conference and selected USC beach volleyball pair Sara Hughes and Kelly Claes to represent the Trojans. And why not? The duo led the Women of Troy to the program's first national championship and collected the pairs title, amassing a 44-3 record.

But how well do they really know each other? Ashley Adamson quizzed them to find out.


Homecoming on the Beach

Homecoming is about more than a football game. USC alums return to campus from around the world for a weekend of celebrating as a Trojan Family.

In that spirit, USC men's volleyball and women's beach volleyball are hosting the second annual USC Legends Homecoming Beach Volleyball Tournament on Friday and Saturday at Merle Norman Stadium. The guest list is a who's who of the game's greats including Tim Hovland and Steve Obradovich, College Players of the Year Bryan Ivie and Tony Ciarelli, All-Americans Bob Yoder, Bill Stetson and Riley McKibbin and current beach pro Geena Urango (pictured).

All-American setter and Olympic gold medalist Dusty Dvorak, who led USC to a pair of NCAA titles, will serve as the tourney's Honorary Legend.

Click here for more.

Nine teams will begin pool play in the 4-person tournament at 6 p.m. on Friday, with Saturday's single elimination play starting at 1 p.m. and the final slated for 5 p.m. prior to the USC football team's Homecoming game against Arizona in the Coliseum at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 per day, including a buffet meal, and proceeds benefit the men's volleyball and women's beach volleyball programs.

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Hughes Reps USC at Pac-12 SALT

Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

The Pac-12 Student-Athlete Leadership Team (SALT) joined a host of Pac-12 administrators as well as athletic directors for Pac-12 Council meetings last week, and beach volleyball junior Sara Hughes was there to represent USC.

Click here for more

"I had such an amazing experience at Pac-12 Council meetings these last couple of days," said Hughes. "It was a great opportunity for us athletes to voice our opinions on matters that directly affect us. I am excited to tell my fellow USC student-athletes about some of the legislation and to get them more involved and enthusiastic about the opportunities SALT has created for us."

Check out this video on Hughes' and all the other conference representatives' experience at the Pac-12 Council meetings...

Pac-12 SALT

The Pac-12 has become the first major conference to incorporate student-athletes into its voting governance structure. USC beach volleyball junior Sara Hughes and women's soccer junior Kayla Mills will represent the Trojans on the Pac-12 Student-Athlete Leadership Team (SALT).

Click here for more.

"We are proud to welcome these exceptional student-athletes as important representatives for our 7,000 Pac-12 student-athletes," said Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott. "We've made significant progress in many important areas facing college sports over the past 18 months, but there is more work to do. The perspective from our student-athletes and their contribution to our policies and processes is critical as we push forward a bold agenda to address issues and preserve the best of college athletics."

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Home Beach Advantage

USC volleyball alums April Ross and Tri Bourne enjoyed the comforts of home at the AVP Manhattan Beach Open this past weekend as Ross won her second consecutive women's title and Bourne earned runner-up on the men's side.

Click here for the LA Times recap.

Ross is playing with Jennifer Fopma, while Kerri Walsh-Jennings recovers from a shoulder injury, but she was still able to make it back-to-back crowns by beating Nicole Branagh and Jenny Kropp, 21-15, 26-24, in the final.

"It's such a prestigious thing to get your name on the pier, and no one is going to give up," Ross told the LA Times. "I wasn't going to believe that we were going to win until the last ball hit the sand."

Bourne (pictured) does not have his name etched in Manhattan Beach history just yet, but he is getting closer. Paired with John Hyden, he fell to Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena, 19-21, 17-21, in his best career showing at the prestigious tournament.

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New Voice for Champs

Ali Wood.jpgAs USC beach volleyball prepares to defend its first national championship, the program has added assistant coach Ali Wood Lamberson, who has 25 years of experience in the sport.

Click here for more.

Lamberson joins the Trojan Family after a year at Tulane and a stint as the head coach for the USA Under-17 Beach National Team, where she guided her women's pairs to gold and silver medals at the inaugural 2014 FIVB U17 World Championship. From 2006 to 2013, Lamberson was the Director of International and High Performance Beach Programs for USA Volleyball.

"Ali is a great fit for our program," said USC head coach Anna Collier. "We have worked together for more than 20 years, including most recently with the USA Junior National Beach Team. She brings a lot of experience and success with her, and will be great for the future of beach volleyball at USC and nationally."



Gotham Beach

Trojans past and present took a bite out of the Big Apple last weekend as the AVP Tour hit Manhattan (not Manhattan Beach) for the first time ever.  USC alum Jennifer Kessy won the inaugural title, the 15th of her AVP career, with her partner Emily Day, but reigning collegiate champions Sara Hughes and Kelly Claes were the breakout stars of the tournament as the rising juniors made it to the semifinals, including a win over USC legend April Ross and her partner Jennifer Fopma, the top seed.

Click here for more.

Hughes and Claes, making their professional main draw debut, went 6-2 over the weekend, earning their stripes against the game's best. They were beaten by Ross and Fopma in their opening match, but fought their way out of the qualifying bracket to upset the Olympic silver medalist and her new partner (playing for the injured Kerri Walsh-Jennings) in the contender's bracket.

Along with Kessy, Ross, Claes and Hughes, USC beach volleyball's first-ever scholarship student-athlete Geena Urango also competed in the historic tournament in New York City.


New Name, Same Game

Going forward, sand volleyball will now be known as beach volleyball as the NCAA has renamed its newest championship sport. The Women of Troy are the reigning holders of the AVCA crown, but in the spring of 2016, they will be competing for the first NCAA title.

Click here for the complete release.

The idea behind the name change is to get in line with the rest of the sport, which has been popular at the professional and Olympic levels for decades now. Beach volleyball is the fastest growing sport in college with 50 schools having adopted it as of January 2015.

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Trojans Going Green

Written by Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributor

The USC athletic department is committed to sustainability, especially when it comes to team transportation, energy and water usage and food consumption. To improve efforts and implement this green mindset, Trojan Sustainability created the Green Teams Program, a competition between USC varsity and club teams to see which were the most sustainable and who had the best practices. 


The women are proving to be the most environmentally-friendly, with the USC women's beach volleyball and rowing teams earning certification from Trojan Sustainability. The current AVCA national champions earned Cardinal-level status thanks to their carpooling efforts and locker room recycling, along with their volunteer efforts at different beach clean-ups.

The USC women's rowing team earned Gold-level certification by adopting its own zero-waste plan spearheaded by assistant coach Ligita Kaviere and installing low-flow attachments on their appliances.

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Pac-12 Adds Sand Volleyball

The Pac-12 is the first major conference to officially sponsor women's sand volleyball, making it the 23rd varsity sport. The Conference of Champions has a good place to start with USC coming off an undefeated national championship season.

Here is the official release from the Pac-12:
The Council also voted to make women's sand volleyball a Pac-12 sponsored sport effective this upcoming academic year (2015-16), making it the Conference's 23rd sport and becoming the first major conference to sponsor sand volleyball. Eight member institutions currently sponsor the sport, well above the Conference threshold of six teams to consider sport sponsorship. In a related decision, sand volleyball will have a Pac-12 championship in the spring of 2016. The format of the championship will be based on the to-be-established NCAA automatic qualification requirements. This past year, USC capped an undefeated season with its first AVCA Collegiate Sand Volleyball Team Championship.
 
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Best on the Beach

USC sand volleyball stakes the claim to the best team on the beach at both the college and professional level. The Women of Troy flexed their muscle through an undefeated season led by Sara Hughes and Kelly Claes, the national pairs champions, and at the AVP level, USC alum April Ross seemingly never loses with her partner Kerri Walsh Jennings.

Ross and Walsh Jennings started the 2015 season the same way they played throughout their perfect 2014 campaign. The duo claimed the New Orleans Open title by defeating another former USC All-American Jennifer Kessy with her new partner Emily Day.

Click here for more.

Ross and Kessy teamed up to win the Olympic silver medal at London 2012, losing to former USC sand volleyball assistant coach Misty May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings in the final. Walsh Jennings will be going for her fourth Olympic gold medal with Ross at Rio 2016.

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Eurotrip Recap

National champion USC sand volleyball is home from its two-week adventure to Europe, having succeeded on the court by winning tournaments in Italy and Slovenia and off the court by immersing itself in new cultural experiences.

The team kept a running diary while it was away. Catch up using the links below:

Click here for Eurotrip 2015 Part I.

Click here for Eurotrip 2015 Part II.

Click here for Eurotrip 2015 Part III.

Click here for Eurotrip 2015 Part IV.

Click here for Eurotrip 2015 Part V.

You can also look back at the trip by following @USCSandVBall on Instagram.

A Trojan pyramid at Vienna's Schonbrunn Palace. #eurotour #FightOn

A photo posted by USC Sand Volleyball (@uscsandvball) on


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