USC women win 4th beach volleyball title in row

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GULF SHORES, Ala. — Twin sisters Nicole and Audrey Nourse won the deciding match for a second straight season and top-ranked USC won its fourth straight beach volleyball championship with a 3-0 sweep over No. 2 UCLA on Sunday.

It was the first championship — since the NCAA recognized the sport in 2016 — where all five matches went to a third game.

USC (37-5) has won six of the eight championships — the last four under head coach Dain Blanton. UCLA (35-7) won the other two titles, in 2018 and ’19.

USC jumped out to a 2-0 lead Sunday behind its No. 2 and No. 4 pairs.

Twos Madison White and Maddi Kriz dropped the first game 14-21 to UCLA’s Peri Brennan and Devon Newberry before rallying for 21-19 and 15-13 victories in the next two.

The Trojans’ fours Grace Seits and freshman Ashley Pater lost the opener 24-26 to the Bruins’ Jaden Whitmarsh and Tessa Van Winkle. Seits and Pater trailed 8-4 in the second game but rallied for a 25-23 victory before dominating the third 15-8. Seits and Pater won their final five matches and finished 12-1 as a pair this season.

The Nourse sisters edged UCLA threes Jessie Smith and Kenzie Brower 22-20 to open their match. Smith and Brower answered with a 21-15 win to even it at a game apiece. The third one was tied 9-9 before a Nicole Nourse service ace and her block at the net wrapped up a 15-11 win and the 2024 title.

USC seniors Megan Kraft, a three-time AVCA first-team All-American, and two-time first-teamer Delaynie Maple cruised to a 21-16 win over the Bruins’ Maggie Boyd and Lexy Denaburg in the opener for the ones. Boyd and Denaburg led by four in the second game before the Trojans pulled within 18-17. UCLA scored the final three points, capped by Boyd’s service ace to force a third game. Kraft and Maple had an 8-4 lead in the final game before the result became moot.

UCLA’s No. 5 pair of Natalie Myszkowski and Ensley Alden opened with a 21-17 win over USC’s Mabyn Thomas and Madison Goellner. The Trojans eked out a 23-21 win to force a deciding game. USC was up 4-2 when the match was called.

USC beat UCLA 3-2 in the championship match last season.

USC began its streak with a 3-1 win over UCLA for the 2021 title. The Trojans followed that with a 3-1 win over Florida State. The event wasn’t held in 2020 because of COVID-19.

Anna Collier coached USC to its first two titles — a 3-0 sweep over Florida State in 2016 and a 3-2 victory over Pepperdine the following season.

The Trojans advanced to the final this season with a 3-0 victory over No. 5 Cal Poly in the semifinals. The Bruins advanced to the title match with a 3-1 victory over No. 11 LSU.

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