Dec. 9, 1997
USC to Face Nebraska in NCAA Pacific Region Semifinal
THIS WEEK — The USC women’s volleyball team (23-5), making its seventh consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance and its 15th overall, will take on Nebraska (26-6) in a Pacific Region semifinal match at Long Beach State’s Pyramid at 5:30 p.m. on Friday (Dec. 12). The other semifinal match is between the host 49ers (31-1), the region’s top seed, and Washington (20-9). That match is scheduled to begin 45 minutes after the completion of USC’s match or at 8 p.m., whichever is latest. Winners of both matches will meet in the Pacific Region final on Saturday (Dec. 13) at the Pyramid at 7:30 p.m. USC advanced to the Pacific Region semifinals by defeating Morgan State, 15-2, 15-7, 15-7, on Dec. 5 and San Diego, 7-15, 15-17, 15-12, 15-5, 16-14 on Dec. 6.
RANKINGS — USC is No. 7 in the Dec. 2 USA Today/AVCA Coaches Top 25 Poll. Long Beach State is No. 1, Nebraska is No. 9 and Washington is No. 13.
USC NCAA TOURNAMENT NOTES — USC has won its first 2 NCAA Tournament matches for the fourth consecutive year, but is looking for its first 3-win postseason since 1985. That year, after winning its first 2 matches, USC lost in the NCAA semifinals but beat UCLA in the third-place match in 5 games. That was also USC’s last NCAA 5-game win until Saturday (Dec. 6) when USC went the distance to beat San Diego . . . USC is 69-20 in the postseason since its first such appearance in 1976 and 23-13 in NCAA Tournament play. The Women of Troy have made 20 postseason appearances overall, 5 AIAW and 15 NCAA. USC has won 3 AIAW national championships (1976, 1977, 1980) and 1 NCAA national championship (1981). The Women of Troy also were runners-up in 1982, made the Final Four in 1985 and reached the West Regional Final in 1994. USC is making its seventh consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance and eighth overall in USC Coach Lisa Love’s 9 seasons at USC. This marks USC’s 10th NCAA regional appearance and the sixth in the last 7 years. The Women of Troy are 11-7 under Love in the NCAA Tournament, but 11-1 in matches against teams other than Pac-10 rival Stanford. In fact, the Women of Troy have 9 sweeps in 12 matches against non-Cardinal opponents. For USC and Stanford to meet in the postseason this year, both teams would have to reach the Final Four . . . USC has faced 11 teams in this year’s NCAA Tournament (including 2 faced in the first and second rounds): Villanova, Michigan State, Colorado, Pepperdine, Stanford, UCLA, Arizona, Washington, Washington State, Morgan State and San Diego. USC is 11-5 against those opponents.
USC Against PACIFIC REGION TEAMS — USC is 3-0 against Pacific Region semifinal-foe Nebraska, 27-8 against Long Beach State and 18-9 against Washington. The Women of Troy beat the Cornhuskers in their only postseason meeting ever, a 3-1 win in Lincoln, Neb., in the 1985 Mideast Regional Final. USC and Long Beach State have split a pair of WAIAW Regional meetings with the Women of Troy winning, 3-2, in 1978 and the 49ers winning, 2-0, in 1979. USC has never faced Washington in the postseason.
LAST YEAR AT THE NCAA TOURNAMENT — USC defeated Southeast Missouri State, 3-0, in the first round in Los Angeles and then beat host South Florida, 3-0, in the second round in Tampa, Fla. The Women of Troy’s season ended in Palo Alto, Calif., where USC was swept by Stanford in the Pacific Region semifinals.
1997 NCAA FIRST AND SECOND ROUNDS — After beating Morgan State to open the NCAA Tournament, USC survived a second-round scare and had to go 5 games to beat San Diego to advance to the Pacific Region semifinals. USC, which hosted a sub-regional at the Lyon Center, beat Morgan State, 15-2, 15-7, 15-7, in the first round on Friday (Dec. 5). Jennifer Kessy and Jasmina Marinkovic had 9 kills apiece as the Women of Troy rolled over the outmatched Lady Bears. Morgan State, making the school’s first-ever NCAA Division I Tournament appearance in any sport, actually led 5-0 in Game 2, but gave up 6 consecutive points as USC controlled the rest of the match. USC outhit Morgan State, .387 to .068 but only had 5 total blocks, a season low. San Diego beat Kansas State, 11-15, 15-10, 15-7, 15-6, in its first-round match and met USC on Saturday (Dec. 6). The Women of Troy went down 0-2, but came back to win, 7-15, 15-17, 15-12, 15-5, 16-14. Kessy set a USC school record with 38 kills, the last pair the decisive points to end the match. Junior setter Janice Mounts set career highs with 83 assists and 24 digs and USC also got 17 kills apiece from freshman outside hitter Antoinette Polk (a career high) and Marinkovic. USC trailed 12-9 in Game 3, but scored 6 consecutive points to extend the match. The Women of Troy put together perhaps its best game of the weekend in Game 4 and opened Game 5 in similar fashion, taking a 9-3 lead. The Toreros, however, battled back, eventually tying USC at 14-14. That’s when Kessy went to work for the final time, ending the match with kills on successive points.
NEBRASKA — The Cornhuskers, under coach Terry Pettit, are led by All-American candidate Lisa Reitsma, a 6-4 outside hitter who can play just about anywhere on the court. She leads Nebraska with 516 kills and she also has 139 blocks. Junior middle blocker Megan Korver has 329 kills and a team-high 147 blocks and junior setter Fiona Nepo averages 13.53 assists per game. The No. 2 seed in the Pacific Region, Nebraska has won 11 consecutive matches, including a 3-0 win over Michigan State in the first round of the NCAAs. USC and Nebraska have faced 2 common opponents: Colorado and Michigan State. USC beat the Buffs, 3-2, and downed the Spartans, 3-1. Nebraska fell twice to Colorado, 2-3 and 0-3, but swept Michigan State. USC last faced Nebraska at the Conference Challenge in Westwood in 1992, beating the Cornhuskers, 3-1.
LONG BEACH STATE — The Pacific Regional host 49ers are led by All-American candidate Misty May, a junior setter who not only averages 12.16 assists per game but has totalled 198 kills. Senior outside hitter Jenn Snyder leads Long Beach State with 318 kills and senior middle blocker Nique Crump has 314 kills and is hitting a blazing .443. Benishe Dillard, a junior middle blocker, leads the 49ers with 1.39 blocks per game. Long Beach State’s only loss of the season came to host Florida in 5 games in September and the 49ers have won 22 in a row since then. They have lost only 7 games all season. The top seed in the Pacific Region, Long Beach State received a first-round bye and beat Loyola Marymount, 3-0, in the second round. USC swept Long Beach State in the last meeting in 1995 and has won 3 in a row over the 49ers.
WASHINGTON — The Huskies, under seventh-year coach Bill Neville, are winners of 5 consecutive matches. They are making their seventh NCAA appearance and their 1997 third-round appearance matches their deepest entry into the tournament. Washington is led by senior quick hitter Makare Desilets, who is No. 2 on the Pac-10 career list with 671 career blocks and 537 career block assists. She is averaging 4.47 kills and 2.06 blocks per game. Junior quickhitter Leslie Tuiasosopo leads Washington with a .315 hitting percentage and she is averaging 1.55 blocks per game. Senior opposite hitter Amy Tutt leads the Huskies with 262 digs and 32 aces. USC split its pair of matches against Washington in 1997, each school winning on the other’s home court. The Women of Troy beat the Huskies, 15-10, 10-15, 15-11, 17-15, on Sept. 26 in Seattle. Washington got its revenge on Oct. 24, beating USC at the Lyon Center, 15-11, 16-14, 13-15, 13-15, 15-11. Washington advanced to the Pacific Region by beating Tennessee-Chattanooga and Pacific.
1997 PAC-10 HONORS — USC enjoyed a bumper crop of Pac-10 honors in 1997 as Women of Troy Coach Lisa Love was named Co-Pac-10 Coach of the Year (with Stanford’s Don Shaw), outside hitter Antoinette Polk was named Pac-10 Freshman of the Year and junior middle blocker Jasmina Marinkovic and junior outside hitter Jennifer Kessy were named to the All-Pac-10 first team. Receiving nods as All-Pac-10 honorable mention picks were senior outside hitter Jeanne Vetter and junior setter Janice Mounts. Outside hitter Kashi Cormier was named a Pac-10 All-Freshman honorable mention selection.
USC NOTES, MILESTONES, ETC. — USC’s second-place tie (with Washington) in the final Pac-10 standings is its highest Pac-10 finish ever. Its previous high was third place (5 times) . . . USC Coach Lisa Love notched her 100th career Pac-10 win recently against Oregon (11/7) and now stands at 103-59 (the third-highest win total in Pac-10 history) . . . USC’s 21-5 (.808) regular-season finish was its best mark in Love’s 9 seasons at USC and the best regular-season finish for the Women of Troy since going 28-6 in 1984. USC’s 10-1 start was its best since 1991 when it opened 14-1 . . . Juniors Jennifer Kessy and Jasmina Marinkovic became the eighth and ninth players, respectively, to surpass 1,000 kills at USC this year. Kessy, an outside hitter, was the first, getting 22 kills against Pepperdine (10/15). She now has 1,223. Marinkovic did it against UCLA (10/17) with 31 kills and now has 1,170. Kessy is seventh on USC’s career attacks list with 3,056 and is sixth in digs with 955. On the career lists, Marinkovic is third in solo blocks (109) and is fourth in total blocking (425) and block assists (316) and is ninth in career attacks (2,456). Junior setter Janice Mounts became only the fifth Trojan ever to reach 2,000 career assists this year and she now has 2,714 . . . USC allowed only a combined 19 points in its sweeps of Arizona State (15-4, 15-3, 15-4) and Arizona (15-1, 15-4, 15-3) on Sept. 19-20, its lowest point total allowed in back-to-back 3-game matches since 1977. The 1977 USC team, which went 38-0 and won the AIAW national championship, gave up a combined 14 points in back-to-back matches . . . USC freshman outside hitter Janae Henry made her network television debut this year in a dubious manner. Playing at San Diego State in the final game of a sweep on Sept. 11, Henry ripped a ball that looked like a sure kill. Aztec junior outside hitter Michaela Paz had other ideas, however. Covering the deep right court, Paz stabbed at the ball with her foot (a legal play) and sent the ball into USC’s backcourt where it landed safely for a kill. The play made numerous highlight reels, including CNN’s, where it was Play of the Day. USC had the last laugh, though, beating the Aztecs in 3 games.
COACH LISA LOVE — One of the nation’s most successful
JASMINA MARINKOVIC — One of the nation’s top blockers
JENNIFER KESSY — Another standout junior, All-American
JANICE MOUNTS — A rising star in the Pac-10,
ALAINA KIPPS — After growing as a reserve her freshman and sophomore years, middle blocker Alaina Kipps has blossomed as a 1997 junior. Kipps, who leads USC with 165 blocks, has been named to the GTE/CoSIDA District VIII All-Academic and Pac-10 All-Academic first teams. She is averaging 1.62 blocks per game, and has had 9 matches with at least 8 blocks. Her 146 block assists are good enough for second place on USC’s season record list (3 short of tying the record) and her current average would place her second all-time. She tied her career high in kills (12) against San Diego (12/6) and had 10 blocks. One of USC’s steadiest players, Kipps is the only member of the team who has appeared in all 102 games. She posted a career-high 14 blocks at UCLA (10/17), joining a tie for the sixth-best single-match blocking performance in school history. She hit a career-high .667 (10-0-15) at Oregon State (10/10) and also added 7 blocks. She had 12 kills and 6 blocks at Washington (9/27) and tied the mark in the rematch vs. the Huskies (10/24). Kipps had 11 blocks, including a career-high 4 solo, in the second match vs. UCLA (11/14). She had 11 kills and 9 blocks against Colorado (9/7) in the 5-game win, had 8 blocks vs. Stanford (10/3) and had 9 kills and 6 blocks at San Diego State (9/11). Kipps was a standout in USC’s season-opening weekend with 20 blocks and 21 kills at the GOFF/MSU Classic (8/29-30). She posted 11 blocks in USC’s win over Michigan State (8/30) and she posted her first double-figure kill showing with 10 against Duke in a morning match before facing the Spartans. Kipps, who carries a 4.0 GPA, was honored during the Academic Salute at the USC-Washington State football game at the Coliseum (9/13).
ANTOINETTE POLK — Starting as a redshirt freshman, outside hitter Antoinette Polk has turned heads all season despite her inexperience. Possibly the most athletic player and best leaper on the team (at 5-10, she can dunk on a regulation basketball hoop), Polk was named 1997 Pac-10 Freshman of Year (USC’s second such honor. The first was Jasmina Marinkovic in 1995). She is third on the team in kills (231) and digs (218). She had a career-high 17 kills in USC’s NCAA Tournament win over San Diego (12/6). She posted her first double-double in only her third career match. She had 11 kills and 14 digs against Michigan State in the finale of the GOFF/MSU Classic (8/30). She had her second double-double at Washington State (9/26) with 13 kills and a career-high 18 digs. She had her third against Pepperdine (10/15) with 12 kills and 12 digs. She had 14 kills vs. Washington State (10/23). Polk had 12 kills and hit .321 against Colorado (9/7), had 10 kills and 8 digs against Cal State Northridge (9/9), 10 kills and 9 digs vs. UCLA (11/14) and had 9 kills and 10 digs at Oregon (10/9). Polk played basketball last year, seeing time in 9 games and averaging 2.1 points as a guard. She has since decided to concentrate on volleyball.
JEANNE VETTER — The only senior on the team, Jeanne Vetter has started 15 matches at opposite hitter and was named a 1997 All-Pac-10 honorable mention selection. She has 106 kills and her 142 digs are fifth on the team. Against Washington (10/24), she tied a career-high with 18 kills and added 23 digs, nursing a sore knee the entire match. She had 14 kills and 20 digs at Washington (9/27) for her first double-double of the season. She also had 10 digs at Washington State (9/26). On the Bay Area trip, Vetter had 17 kills and hit .353. Vetter started her first match of the year against Arizona State (9/19) and had 6 kills in 7 attempts without an error. She also had 3 aces and 4 assists. Hampered by a nagging shoulder injury, Vetter saw action in only 1 match in USC’s opening weekend at the GOFF/MSU Classic (8/29-30), but she made it count. Getting in as a reserve against the Spartans in the title game, Vetter had 8 big digs in the win. Against Colorado (9/7), she provided a spark off the bench with 3 kills and 6 digs, jump starting the Women of Troy like she has so often in her career. She had 7 kills in 8 attempts against Cal State Northridge (9/9), hitting .750. She missed 4 matches in October because of a knee injury but is back at full strength.
SARA STEPHEN — USC’s shortest outside hitter at 5-8, junior Sara Stephen is one of the Women of Troy’s hardest hitters. She is third on the team in service aces with 18, including 4 against Villanova (9/5). She is fourth on the team in digs with 155. As a reserve, Stephen saw time in all 3 of USC’s matches at the GOFF/MSU Classic (8/29-30), mainly as a defensive specialist. She had 25 digs in 3 matches (2.5 per game), including 13 vs. Duke and 10 against Michigan State. Stephen had 12 digs at Oregon (10/9) and 11 digs vs. Washington (10/24). In USC’s last weekend of regular-season action at the Arizona schools (11/21-22), she had a combined 23 digs. In USC NCAA Tournament win over San Diego (12/6), she had 12 digs.
KASHI CORMIER — True freshman Kashi Cormier, a 2-time USA Youth National team member (1996-97), has seen the most action thus far of any of USC’s 7 newcomers, playing in 78 games as a part-time starter at opposite hitter. For her efforts, she was named a 1997 Pac-10 All-Freshman honorable mention selection. On the year, she has 122 kills, 112 digs and 46 blocks. She had 13 and 11 kills, respectively, at Washington State (9/26) and Washington (9/27), hitting .407 against the Cougars. In the NCAA first-round match against Morgan State (12/5), Cormier had 7 kills and hit .545 (7-1-11). She followed that with 11 kills and a career-high 12 digs against San Diego in the second round (12/6). She had 10 kills vs. both the Cougars and Ducks at home and had 9 kills and hit .333 at Oregon (10/9). At the GOFF/MSU Classic (8/29-30), she came up with 25 digs, including 11 in USC’s upset of then-No. 6 Michigan State.
FRESHMEN — Including Cormier, Coach Lisa Love welcomed 7 freshmen to this year’s squad. Outside hitters Janae Henry, the 1996 Volleyball Magazine Player of the Year, and Cormier have competed for time throughout the season. Setter Heidi Munneke, a 2-time All-CIF Southern Section Division IV first team selection in 1995-96, is Mounts’ back-up. The other 4 freshmen, all walk-ons, are defensive specialist Cynthia Corpuz, outside hitters Christine Bohle and Shannon Redfern and middle blocker Sara Peterson. Redfern started her first match of her career against Villanova (9/5), filling in at middle blocker for Jasmina Marinkovic. She came through with 6 kills in 13 attempts and often works her way into Coach Love’s rotation. She also started at UCLA (10/17) and played a solid match. Against Arizona, Redfern had a USC season-high 7 aces, 1 short of tying USC’s 3-game match record. She had 10 digs vs. Pepperdine (10/15). Henry saw her most significant action of the year vs. Washington (10/24), getting 7 kills in 32 attacks to go along with 12 digs, all career highs. On the year, she has 25 kills and 53 digs in 35 games as a reserve and Munneke has 83 assists in 22 games. Bohle has seen action in 12 games as a back-row specialist. Corpuz has played in 6 games (she has 4 digs), Peterson in 1.
AMBER OLIVER — Sophomore Amber Oliver, expected to be a major contributor at middle blocker in 1997, has been out the entire season because of a shoulder injury suffered this spring. She was a 1996 Pac-10 All-Freshman honorable mention selection last year.
TOUGH SCHEDULE — As usual, USC has faced one of the toughest schedules in the nation, featuring 9 schools that have been ranked in the USA Today/AVCA Top 25: Stanford, Michigan State, Washington State, Washington, Arizona, UCLA, Pepperdine, Colorado and San Diego. USC also has faced 4 teams that received votes in the preseason poll: Duke, San Diego State, Oregon State and Arizona State. USC is 8-5 against ranked teams so far with wins over No. 6 Michigan State, No. 22 Colorado, No. 15 Arizona, No. 14 Pepperdine, No. 22/24 UCLA (twice), No. 10 Washington State (second meeting) and No. 23 San Diego. Losses are to No. 6 Washington State (first meeting), No. 4 Stanford (twice), No. 21 Washington (second meeting) and No. 9 Arizona (second meeting). Rankings are at the time of the match.
IN THE PAC-10 — Jasmina Marinkovic leads the Pac-10 in hitting percentage (.398) and is fifth in block average (1.48) and kill average (4.28). Janice Mounts is third in assist average (13.12) and Alaina Kipps is second in block average (1.62). Jennifer Kessy is second in dig average (3.32) and third in kill average (4.50). As a team, USC is second in service aces (1.48) and hitting percentage (.268) and third in blocks (3.32). Shannon Redfern’s 7 aces are a high for the Pac-10, as are Kipps’ 14 total blocks and 12 block assists (tied) and Kessy’s 38 kills. USC’s 269 attacks vs. Washington (10/24) are also a Pac-10 high.
PRESEASON POLLS — USC was ranked No. 15 in the USA Today/AVCA Coaches Poll and No. 14 in Volleyball Magazine.
PAC-10 PRESEASON COACHES POLL — 1. Stanford, 2. USC, 3. UCLA, 4. Washington State, 5. Washington, 6. Arizona, 7. Oregon State, 8. California, 9. Oregon, 10. Arizona State.
Nebraska is a fine volleyball program. They’re very tough but our team is ready to play and is very excited. We expect a great match on Friday.
(On San Diego match) We were down 2-0 and 12-9 in the third game and then got locked into a rally-scoring fifth game and were tied at 14-14. I was extremely impressed with USD’s tenacity and the level of play behind the block. In the first part of the match, I think our team was frustrated with San Diego. Everything we were hitting, it felt like we were hitting against a wall. We eventually levelled off and began to work the match very hard. It was an exciting match, a real crowd-pleaser and we’re very fortunate to have survived it.
Nebraska is similar to some of the teams we’ve seen in the Pac-10. They’re an outstanding team led by a great setter and a tenacious attack. We think the game at the net will be a key part of the match. I have a lot of respect for their physical play. Nebraska has an extremely successful tradition in the NCAAs. They’re well-coached and accustomed to succeedding and can get the job done at this time of the year.
We will treat this match like we do a road match. Instead of going back and forth from Los Angeles to Long Beach, we will check into a hotel and simplify the process as much as possible.
I’m very impressed with USC. But after watching a little video on them, I don’t think either team has to make many adjustments. Both teams run pretty much the same plays and the same rotations. The teams are almost even in every facet of the game. I expect an extremely competitive match and we’re happy to be here.
Both teams have experience at setter. Both have go-to players. I’m extremely impressed with both of the middle blockers on USC. Both teams have good fits for what they need. Both seem to have three or four people that can come off the bench. USC appears to me to have good depth and I believe we do to.
(On setter Fiona Nepo) She is probably the reason why we’ve had the success we’ve had. She’s really a joy to coach and if I had to pick a player that reflects the spirit of this team, she’d be right in the middle of that.
(On OH Lisa Reitsma) She a 6-4 outside hitter but she can play anywhere we need her, in the middle, on the left or the right. We use her to combat the strengths of our opponents.