In a beautiful scene on Alki Beach, Boise State’s Anika Christensen, who is from nearby Gig Harbor, hits against Georgia State as teammate Aris Vetter looks on/Stephen Burns photo

Another UCLA-USC showdown looms large Thursday as the NCAA beach volleyball regular season winds down.

It comes on the heels of UCLA’s 3-2 victory over the Trojans this past Saturday in the loaded Center of Effort Challenge at Cal Poly. UCLA has won two of the three meetings this season between the top two teams in the AVCA Collegiate Beach Poll.

Speaking of which:

AVCA top 20, POW

AVCA COLLEGIATE BEACH POLL: The top four — UCLA, USC, Stanford and Florida State — stayed the same, but Cal Poly jumped two spots into a tie with FSU. It ties the best ranking in Cal Poly history.

TCU dropped one notch to No. 6. Long Beach State stayed seventh, Cal is still No. 8, but Loyola Marymount moved up a spot to No. 9, trading places with No. LSU.

The next five are Hawai’i, Washington, Arizona State, FIU and Georgia State.

Numbers 16-20 are Stetson, Grand Canyon, FAU, Arizona and South Carolina, which moved in while Texas A&M-Corpus Christi — off last week — dropped out.

Click here for the AVCA top 20.

PAIR OF THE WEEK: The AVCA gave a nod to the small schools this week in honoring Hanni Johnson and Amanda Ollinger of Division II Colorado Mesa. Johnson, a 5-fot-9 senior from Anchorage, Alaska, and Ollinger, a 6-1 graduate student from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, who played basketball — not volleyball — for Iowa from 2016-20. She played volleyball in high school. Johnson and Ollinger went 4-0 last week for the program located in Grand Junction, Colorado, without losing a set. The Mavericks took third at the AVCA Small College Beach Championships in Tavares, Florida.

Colorado Mesa had this feature last week about Ollinger and teammate Cedar Bellows.

Center of Effort Challenge

The big gathering last weekend was in San Luis Obispo at Cal Poly’s Center of Effort and top-ranked UCLA, which has won 19 duals in a row, went 4-0 to improve to 28-4. Since losing three of their first four duals, the Bruins have lost only to Stanford five weeks ago. At Cal Poly, they had to go the distance in all four of their matches, winning 3-2 each time against Loyola Marymount, Florida State, Cal Poly and USC.

Against USC, the match was tied 2-2 when UCLA’s court 5 pair of Tessa Van Winkle and Jaden Witmarsh beat USC’s Madison Goellner and Mabyn Thomas 14-21, 21-17, 15-10.

USC’s Megan Kraft and Delaynie Maple won on court 1 and Grace Seits and Ashley Pater won on court 4. UCLA’s Devon Newberry and Peri Brennan won on court 2 and Kenzie Bower and Jessie Smith won on court 3.

UCLA leads the all-time series 24-19 and this marked the 30th time they played in a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup.

USC (27-4) beat Pepperdine 4-1 and went 5-0 against both Long Beach State and TCU. 

Stanford (24-3) won 5-0 three times at home, beating San Francisco, Arizona and Pacific. The Cardinal has won six in a row.

FSU (27-7) beat Cal Poly 3-2, lost to UCLA, lost to LMU 4-1, and finished with a 4-1 win over Pepperdine.

TCU (25-7), which has lost five of its last 11 duals, beat Long Beach State, swept Pepperdine, got swept by USC and lost 4-1 to Cal Poly. 

Cal Poly (23-5) went 2-2 at its home tourney. The Mustangs lost to FSU, beat LMU 4-1, lost to USC and then finished with its victory over TCU. 

Long Beach State (23-7) finished with a 3-2 win over LMU (22-11) which went 1-3. 

Around the nation

Cal (18-10) beat visiting Sacramento twice, thumping the Hornets 5-0 both times. The Bears lost just one set in 10 matches.

LSU (20-9) cruised to four 5-0 victories at home, beating Jacksonville, New Orleans, Louisiana-Monroe and Southeastern Louisiana.

Oregon’s Alina Valenti watches Daley McClellan stretch out against Washington at Alkl Beach in Seattle/Stephen Burns photo

Washington (16-11) played on its home sand at Alki Beach and went 4-1. After sweeping Oregon and Boise State and beating Georgia State 3-2 on Friday, the Huskies beat Oregon again, this time 4-1, before losing 3-2 to Georgia State. It came down to court 5, where GSU’s Courtney Smith and Ayla Johnson prevailed. Georgia State is 19-11.

South Carolina (17-11), which moved into the top 20, beat Stetson 3-2, lost to FIU 3-2, beat FGCU 4-1 and lost 3-1 to FAU.

Washington’s Kendall Mather/Stephen Burns photo

This week

Thursday, at USC’s Merle Norman Stadium, where you can watch from the garage structure and look down and see all the courts, UCLA plays Loyola Marymount at 10 a.m. Pacific before playing the Trojans again at 12:30. USC then plays LMU. All three matches will be shown on the Pac-12 Network’s USC Live Stream.

Stanford on Friday plays host to Grand Canyon and Washington before facing Cal and UC Davis on Saturday. Cal plays GCU, Washington and the home team at the Stanford gathering.

Florida State is off before going to the CCSA Tournament in Huntsville, Alabama, April 26-27, and so is TCU, idle until playing in the Conference USA Championships in Youngsville, Louisiana, April 25-27.

Cal Poly is headed to New Orleans and plays Southern Miss, Tulane, UAB and Louisiana-Monroe.

Long Beach State plays back-to-back matches at home Saturday against Cal State Los Angeles.

LSU goes to South Carolina where the field includes Coastal Carolina, South Carolina, Jacksonville and Georgia State.

LMU not only plays UCLA and USC on Thursday, on Saturday it is home for CSUN and Arizona.

Hawai’i is off until the Big West Championship April 25-26 at Long Beach State.

Arizona State is at Arizona on Thursday before coming home Friday to play the Ottawa University Spirit from nearby Surprise, Arizona.

Stetson is home Friday for FAU and North Florida.

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi plays in the eight-team Southland Conference Championship Friday and Saturday at Third Coast in Houston.

Washington wins the point as Oregon’s Daley McClellan can only watch helplessly/Stephen Burns photo


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