USC volleyball team wins national championship; coach and player have local ties


When former La Costa Canyon volleyball standout Paige Hines organized her USC sand volleyball team’s visit to a Los Angeles-area children’s hospital earlier this year, the intent was to provide some inspiration to those in need.

But it wasn’t just the children who were left energized.

“We felt good connecting to kids and hopefully making their day,” Hines said. “They also had a huge impact on us ... seeing how strong they were and how they handled everything so well. I think it was a lot of motivation for our team to kind of step up and handle things with the same courage” that the children with illnesses did.

Hines led the team’s community service efforts, which also included setting up sand volleyball clinics for underprivileged children, safe Halloween night trick-or-treating for kids in high-crime areas, and beach cleanups.

Her leadership was also a key factor in the Trojans enjoying arguably the most successful season in the newly sanctioned sport’s history.

The Trojans went 28-0 on their way to winning a national championship.

“The whole season was kind of like a dream come true,” Hines said. “We went 28-0, and I was surrounded by some incredible teammates. We were pretty close and we had a great bond.”

Hines played a key role on the team as a sophomore, acting as a liaison between coaches and teammates as a reserve player on the program’s Team 6.

“Paige was a huge contributor,” said USC coach Anna Biller Collier.

Hines, a former Mavericks standout in indoor and beach volleyball, often stepped in at key moments during the championship run, Collier said. In additional to her leadership, Hines’ role requires athleticism, skill and aptitude along with excellent communication skills and the ability to shape the team’s culture.

And she has to think quickly.

“Her duty is to assess what’s going on in each match and, if necessary, for me or someone else on my staff to move to a particular match so that we would win at least three out of the five” matches, Collier said.

Collier herself has local ties. Her parents have lived in Rancho Santa Fe for 20 years, and she pops in regularly to scoop up free meals along with recruits in one of the nation’s most talent-rich areas.

A former Olympic coach who’s originally from the East Coast, Collier hits Moonlight Beach in Encinitas as well as beaches and gyms in Del Mar and Rancho Santa Fe, among other areas of San Diego County on her recruiting trips.

“It is definitely a mecca of high-level indoor and beach volleyball,” she said.

Hines, a product of the recruiting gold mine frequented by Collier along with sand and indoor coaches throughout the nation, admits that playing in such a competitive region elevated her game.

“I was being pushed constantly,” she said. “I was with girls (who) were better than me, and it just made me want to strive to do my best and step up to the plate.

“It can be discouraging at times, but in the end, it makes me a better player.”

It also made her a pioneer of sorts.

Hines launched her sand volleyball career on the beaches of Del Mar, playing for San Diego Beach Volleyball Club. She played for the Mavericks club beach volleyball in its inaugural season her senior year. Beach volleyball is now a sanctioned sport in the San Diego Section.

“That was kind of a cool thing to be a part of, because I kind of laid down the steps for younger kids, and I know a lot of the girls because I played for San Diego Beach Volleyball Club for four years. So a lot of the girls that are doing that and also going to La Costa Canyon are now playing, and they get to play on a CIF beach volleyball team, which is just incredible,” she said.

“It’s something that I never thought was possible in high school.”

But even back in high school, she was committed to community service.

“I get so much more of a personal reward giving to somebody else something (rather) than buying something for myself,” she said. “That’s something that’s always been instilled in me.”

She plans to continue that commitment after completing her studies at USC. She’s an environmental studies major with minor in social entrepreneurship and made the dean’s list last semester.

“I’m following the path of helping people,” she said. “I’m not exactly sure what I want to do with it, just as long as I can have a positive influence on people’s lives.”

Growing up in Encinitas, Hines saw elite volleyball talent that had a positive influence on her career.

“I remember coming down to Moonlight (Beach) and being a young freshman (at LCC) and seeing Natalie Hagglund play on Court One and just tearing it up, so that was just something that I wanted to do and pursue,” Hines said. Watching Hagglund, who went on to have a distinguished career at USC and now plays for Team USA, inspired her.

Now Hines is leading others.

“I kind of felt like I followed her footsteps,” she said of Hagglund. “Hopefully, I left behind a good example for other girls (at LCC) to follow and hopefully come to USC.”