No. 4 Trojans Get Fresh Start to 2013 on 3-1 Win Over No. 16 Purdue
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Aug 30, 2013
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - In her very first collegiate match, USC women’s volleyball freshman outside hitter Ebony Nwanebu played like it was her senior night as she led the Women of Troy with 20 points on 15 kills (1e, 33att, .424), eight blocks, and a service ace to give the Trojans (1-0) their first victory of the season. USC defeated 16th-ranked host Purdue (0-1) in four sets, 21-25, 25-19, 25-21, 25-16, at Holloway Gymnasium in the Mortar Board Premier.
In a return to his home state of Indiana, head coach Mick Haley guided the Trojans to their fourth consecutive victory in a season opener. USC is 11-2 in season openers under Haley and is now 32-6 all time.
As a team, the Trojans put up 17 blocks led by junior middle blocker Hannah Schraer who had a career-high 10 blocks to go with three kills. A point of emphasis for the Boilermaker defense, sophomore outside hitter Samantha Bricio was slowed at the outset, but came alive as the match progressed and finished with 15 points on 12 kills (3e, 38att, .237), two block assists and a solo block, and one service ace.
All-American senior libero Natalie Hagglund received a lot of help from the Trojan block but still led the team with 13 digs. Senior outside hitter Sara Shaw posted nine kills (3e, 23att, .261) and had seven digs for USC. Senior middle blocker Alexis Olgard logged four kills (1e, 9att, .333) and added a service ace to go with four blocks (two solo). Sharing time at the setter position, junior Hayley Crone dished out 24 assists. Freshman setter Alice Pizzasegola got into the match early and ended with 13 assists in her first outing.
The Trojans posted a .121 hitting percentage in the first set but maintained course to finish with a .268 rate (46k, 12e, 127att). Though they outhit USC in the first set, the Boilermakers were shut down by the Trojan defense and completed the match with a .092 hitting percentage (50k, 38e, 130att).
Purdue got 12 kills apiece from Val Nichol (12k, 10e, 32att, .062) and Sam Epenesa (12k, 4e, 22att, .364) and had three other players with at least five kills each. Four Boilers hit the 10-dig mark but Amanda Neill led all players with 16 digs on the night. KiKi Jones had five blocks to lead Purdue and added six kills (3e, 10att, .300).
Because the Mortar Board Honorary sponsors the tournament, players from each team were honored in three different areas. For the Trojans, junior outside hitter Emily Young received the award for highest team grade-point average and took home the community service award. Crone was honored with the most-improved GPA award.
The Trojans got out of the gate churning and rolled out to a 6-1 lead as Nwanebu took her first collegiate swing and tooled the Boiler block. The USC lead was short lived as Purdue rallied to tie the score at 10-all on a service ace by Rachel Davis. The Trojans went ahead again as Olgard tipped a ball to the ground for a point, but the Boilermakers stayed within striking distance the rest of the way. USC capitalized on errors to hold a 13-12 lead, but Purdue made another big run to grab a 17-14 lead. Still, errors allowed the Trojans to stay in the game with the score tied at 18. The Boilers reached 20 points to lead by two but freshman outside hitter Elise Ruddins earned her first collegiate point to get USC within a point at 20-19. Another Purdue error set up one last tie score at 20-all, but the Boilermakers turned to Nichol who scored three straight points on kills to give Purdue set point, 24-21. The Boilers continued to press and secured the 25-21 win.
The second frame opened up much tighter than the first but USC grabbed a 5-4 lead on a Purdue miscue. Bricio, who had been slowed in the first set, came to life and put the Trojans up, 9-6, on a cut shot. Olgard served her ace on the next play to get USC a four-point lead. The Boilers committed enough errors to hand over a six-point lead at 13-7. USC led by as many as seven at 22-15 and 23-16 when Bricio went crosscourt for a kill. Purdue fought back and climbed within four points, but Nichol’s bid at bringing her team back fell short when Nwanebu and Schraer teamed up to block her offering and set the Trojans up with set point, 24-19. An out-of-system play put second contact in the hands of Hagglund who put up a set for Shaw whose kill knotted the match at one all.
The third set saw 10 tie scored and five lead changes before a winner was decided. Purdue held several small leads but a pair of Boiler errors set the Trojans up with an eight-all tie. Crone set Bricio up for a kill to put the lead on USC’s side of the scoreboard before Nwanebu and Schraer teamed up for another block to give the Trojans a 10-8 separation. USC continued to lead until Nichol set up Annie Drews for a pair of kills that tied the score at 13-all. The two teams tied the score again at 15, 17, 18, 19, and 20, before Nwanebu earned a kill for a 22-20 Trojan lead. Nwanebu and Schraer met at the net again for a big block to give USC a commanding 23-20 advantage. Shaw’s kill gave the Trojans set point and then Crone put up a pipe set for Bricio who crushed the ball for the 25th point and a 25-21 win.
With momentum in hand, the Trojans forced the issue and played an aggressive serve and pass game that netted a 10-7 lead as Nwanbu and Schraer teamed for their eighth block together. Shaky passing forced the Boilers into errors that created a sudden seven-point lead for the Trojans at 15-8. Nwanebu went crosscourt for a kill to give USC a 16-10 lead and then Schraer and Bricio teamed for a block to get the Trojans in front by six points again, 20-14. Bricio’s service ace made the score 22-15 but Nwanebu took a set from Crone for her 14th kill and a 23-16 USC lead. Hagglund set Shaw for set point and set Nwanebu on the next rally who put down the final kill of the night (her 15th) to win the fourth set, 25-16, and the match, 3-1.
The Trojans must turn around and face another top-25 team overnight. USC and No. 21-ranked Western Kentucky (1-0) meet at noon ET (9 a.m. PT) before the Trojans complete the Mortar Board Premier with a 7:30 p.m. ET (4:30 p.m. PT) match against Alabama A&M. For more information, complete stats, and schedule, please visit USCTrojans.com.