The No. 1 in beach volleyball will face the best teams this weekend

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Graduate student Caroline Schafer is 13-2 in singles games this season. Last year, she was named to the All-Pac-12 first team. (Colin Huang | Daily Trojan)

After a strong performance at the Pac-12 North Invitational last weekend, the No. 1 USC beach volleyball is heading north to San Luis Obispo to compete in the Center of Effort Challenge tournament.

The Trojans enter the tournament on a 22-game winning streak, including four last weekend against Pac-12 rivals, including sweeps of No. 9 Stanford, No. 17 Arizona and Oregon. USC’s only dropped point of the tournament came in a three-court loss in a 4-1 win over No. 12 Cal on Saturday afternoon.

“The momentum is huge,” graduate student Julia Scoles said in an interview with the Daily Trojan. “It’s something your energy dictates. Just make sure you’re engaged in every game and engaged in every day and really staying in the present…just work hard and take each day for what it is – a blessing – and keep moving forward.

The Trojans will face No. 6 Loyola Marymount University, No. 13 Cal Poly University, SLO, No. 4 Florida State and No. 3 UCLA.

Despite preparing to face several ranked opponents, Scoles said the team remained unfazed.

“We just take it game by game and know each one will be a battle,” Scoles said. “Regardless of who we play, we always have the mindset that anyone can win on any given day. So we just have confidence in our training, we show up and give our opponents the most respect by playing our best level of volleyball.

Head coach Dain Blanton said he enjoys the challenges presented by his team’s opponents.

“We like to play the best so we can improve, and that’s exactly what we’ll be using this weekend,” Blanton said. “We come to the part of the season where you try to put everything in place, everything that you have worked on so far, and we slowly start to refine it.

The Trojans have yet to face LMU and Cal Poly this season. Sophomore Megan Kraft said the team didn’t pay much attention to team standings before the tournament.

“We expect to face some great opponents, as always,” Kraft said. “It doesn’t matter how well they are ranked or not, because everyone gets really good. So just playing hard, raising the bar in training always helps prepare for a tough competition.

With a short week to prepare, the Trojans are making the most of their training time, focusing on serving and passing in order to force opponents out of their systems.

The first game for the Trojans will be their rematch against UCLA, which handed the Trojans their only loss of the season, a 3-2 loss in early March at the Battle for LA Invitational.

“It’s really exciting. We’ve both had time to develop and the rosters have changed a bit,” Kraft said. “We’re really excited to play hard and see what happens… We’re keeping them definitely in mind.”

Scoles said the team considered themselves an “underdog” and had become more motivated heading into the game against the Bruins.

“Having this loss under our belt has made us hungrier,” Scoles said. “Every time we play at UCLA, it’s always a battle… Let the better team win.”

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