GULF SHORES, Alabama — The two storied athletic programs from Los Angeles have played each other 20 times to decide nationals titles, twice in beach volleyball. And they split those.
So when top-seeded UCLA plays third-seeded USC on Sunday for the National Collegiate Beach Championship crown, the battle should be all that and more.
UCLA (40-3) and USC (31-5) have played four times this season.
USC won their first meeting, 3-2 at USC on March 5.
UCLA won 3-2 three weeks ago at Cal Poly.
Five days later, at UCLA, the Bruins won 4-1.
And then UCLA won 3-0 on April 28 in the Pac-12 Championship at Stanford.
What’s more, since the NCAA took over the beach championships from the AVCA in 2016, it’s been all USC or UCLA.
USC won in 2016 and 2017.
UCLA won in 2018 and beat USC in the 2019 final.
The event was canceled in 2020, and USC won in 2021 — beating UCLA — and 2022. Last year the Women of Troy beat Florida State to finish 37-1.
UCLA advanced Saturday with victories over eighth-seeded Cal and No. 4 Florida State.
USC knocked out sixth-seeded Loyola Marymount and then battled a three-set win on court 5 for a tough win over No. 2 TCU.
“This team has done it all year,” USC coach Dain Blanton said. “When one team loses at a certain position another team steps up. And that’s how we’ve been so effective and hopefully we can finish it for one more.”
So it’s UCLA vs. USC. USC leads the overall series 22-17.
“We’ve played USC more than anybody this year and both teams know each other well,” UCLA coach Stein Metzger said. “However, we have not played each other on harder packed sand.
“Because of that I expect to see a lot of hard-hitting action and, of course, the emotions will be running high. We’re asking them to stay disciplined and trust their training and each other.
“Should be a great final.”
The championship match will be shown on ESPN at noon Eastern and also available on ESPN+.
The first match Saturday was in the round-of-16 between sixth-seeded LMU and 11th-seeded Hawai’i. It was scheduled for Friday, but was weathered out.
As a result, Hawai’i was playing at what was 3 a.m. to the BeachBows. LMU came away with a 3-1 victory, winning on court 5 (Madi Firnett-Isabelle Tucker) and court 4 (Chloe Hooker-Cassie Chinn) and finishing it on court 3…
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