USC ended UCLA’s reign as the NCAA beach volleyball champion with a 3-1 victory Sunday in the championship dual at Gulf Shores, Alabama.
The second-seeded Trojans (30-4) won the first match to be decided, with senior Haley Hallgren and graduate student Hailey Harward defeating sophomores Lindsey Sparks and Abby Van Winkle, 21-14, 21-17. Sparks and Van Winkle were 10-0 in their career and 6-0 this season entering the match.
The top-seeded Bruins (32-5) got what would be their only point when freshman Rileigh Powers and redshirt freshman Jaden Whitmarsh defeated twins Audrey Nourse and Nicole Nourse, 21-13, 26-24, on Court 5. The Nourses are sophomores.
USC took a 2-1 lead when junior Tina Graudina and freshman Megan Kraft defeated graduate student Savvy Simo and freshman Lexy Denaburg, 21-16, 21-17, on Court 1.
The Trojans clinched the dual when graduate student Julia Scoles and senior Sammy Slater defeated junior Lea Monkhouse and freshman Devon Newberry, 26-24, 21-15. Slater served an ace for the point that gave USC its third championship in the five years the NCAA has conducted a beach volleyball championship.
The Trojans were the 2016 and 2017 champions, lost to eventual champion UCLA in an elimination bracket semifinal in 2018 and lost the championship dual to the Bruins in 2019.
The championship was canceled in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
USC won all four its duals in the 2021 NCAA championship after losing twice to UCLA on May 1 in the Pac-12 Championship. The Trojans were 4-2 against the Bruins in 2021.
The Bruins won three consecutive matches in the elimination bracket to reach the championship dual including a 3-0 victory over Loyola Marymount earlier Sunday.
UCLA was relegated to the elimination bracket following a 3-2 loss to LMU on Friday.
The Graudina-Kraft, Scoles-Slater and Powers-Whitmarsh pairs were selected for the all-tournament team.
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