USC Beach Volleyball

USC Beginning to Peak at the Right Time


LOS ANGELES — Anna Collier knows when her athletes are tired. Really, she does. She was a two-time All-American track and field athlete in the 800- and 400-meter relay teams. She swam competitively. She’s coached at the Olympic level.

The concept of fatigue is not lost on her.

The only thing is that, as a coach, she has a different perspective on that point, the threshold of exhaustion and pushing through. It’s what the first half of the USC beach volleyball season is all about – when you think you don’t have anything left, there’s one more rep, one more side out, one more sprint. Then another.

“When they’re tired, it’s like ‘I know you’re tired. I want you to be tired. You’re playing tired,’” Collier said on Thursday afternoon. “And they go ‘Coach we can’t!’ And I say ‘You gotta fight now.’”

Fight now. Win later. It’s what Collier attempts to do every season, seeking that perfect balance of building, building, building, and then tapering down for a championship season push. Timing the peak, just as she did in track and field as an athlete and coach.

“In the first half, I kill them,” she said bluntly, candidly. “I tell them ‘You’re going to hate me, you’re going to wish I were dead, you’re going to dream at night that you have a sword and you’re stabbing me.’ I get it. I know this. And then we’re going to stop, take ten days off, and come back for the second half, which is only three weeks.”

USC is now officially in that marvelous three-week period Collier has dubbed the second half. A quick skim of the Trojans’ recent resume is all one needs to see the value in her particular style of training.

On Thursday, USC swept No. 10 Long Beach before avenging a loss to Pepperdine, beating the Waves, 4-1. This came just four days after handing UCLA its first loss of its season, building the cross-town rivalry to quite the crescendo, with just two weeks to the Pac-12 Championships and less than a month to the NCAA Tournament.

“We’re just making little adjustments here and there,” said Terese Cannon, USC’s court two blocker who went 2-0 on the day with Sammy Slater. “We’ve changed our mindset. We’re focused on our own individual matches right now and then we can focus on the rest of the team. That’s helped a lot, and we just keep grinding every day in practice. We’re pretty excited. We’re just looking to keep that momentum going.”

At the moment, no team is hotter than the Trojans, who responded to consecutive losses to UCLA and Pepperdine with six straight wins, three of which came over top 10 opponents.

Just two regular season matches remain, against Grand Canyon and Cal Poly, next Thursday, before championship season begins.

“They’re drinking the Cool Aid,” Collier said. “We’re playing good ball. We really are playing much better ball.”

They’re playing second-half-of-the-season ball. And getting rewarded as such. After USC had sealed its second victory of the day on Thursday and the Trojans had sung their fight song and Collier had given her final speech, she added a bonus: A day off.

“Huge relief,” she said, laughing. “It’s like a prize.”