No. 1 beach volleyball won its second-straight NCAA Championship title earlier this month, defeating No. 4 Florida State 3-1 in the Championship Dual. The Trojans’ national title clinch marks their fifth in program history.
USC finished the season with a 37-1 record, starting and ending the 2022 season sitting atop the NCAA rankings.
“This was such a special team, and I told a lot of people that I think this was the best collegiate team that has been assembled in this short time that beach volleyball has been an NCAA sport,” USC Head Coach Dain Blanton said.
USC kicked off their title hunt with a 3-0 sweep over Tennessee Martin in the first round of the tournament, marking the team’s 32nd straight dual victory and second-longest streak in program history. USC secured a sweep over Florida Atlantic in the quarterfinal stage.
USC triumphed 3-1 over Florida State in the Winner’s Bracket Semi Final. After sophomore Delaynie Maple and graduate student Julia Scoles scored the first point of the dual. Florida State evened up the score when sophomore Megan Kraft and graduate student Sammy Slater suffered their only loss of the season. Senior Tina Graudina and graduate student Hailey Harward scored the clinching point at top court and the Trojans moved on.
In their third sweep of the tournament, the Trojans defeated cross-town rivals No. 2 UCLA in the Winner’s Bracket Final to secure the final spot at the NCAA Championship. USC’s victory over UCLA added to their 21-14 all-time record against the Bruins.
“I thought that the players played maybe one of their best matches of the year and so I was a little concerned [on] can we play to that level the next day during the finals,” Blanton said. “To no surprise, the players were able to do so.”
Florida State met USC in the championship match after climbing the elimination bracket. For the second time in the tournament, USC defeated Florida State 3-1.
Despite Florida State’s effort to equalize and even the score at court two, the Trojans marched back with victories spearheaded by Graudina and Harward to recapture the lead. Maple and Scoles clinched the final point to propel the Trojans to their second-straight national title.
“I think our team this year was just all super bought into this team,” said Maple in an interview with the Daily Trojan. “Everyone went into games just excited to be there and we had a really close team [this year].”
The Trojans lost the opening match to the Battle For L.A. Invitational at the hands of UCLA in March before embarking on a 36-win streak culminating in the Championship Dual against Florida State.
“We brought it all together, once we lost that first early round match in the season we just changed our attitude and realized this is going to take us playing with a sense of urgency every single time that we step on that court,” Blanton said. “And that’s exactly what we were able to do.”
Graudina and Harward’s efforts throughout the season and 31-1 overall record earned the pair the AVCA National Pair of the Year award.
“It was a complete team effort and so fun to watch every single court, I love the way the pairs came together,” Blanton said.