No. 4 USC Claims Mortar Board Premier Championship|
Aug 31, 2013
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The fourth-ranked USC women's volleyball team (3-0) took down Alabama A&M (0-3) in three sets, 25-13, 25-14, 25-9, to win the 2013 Mortar Board Premier title at Holloway Gymnasium on Saturday, Aug. 31. Sophomore outside hitter Samantha Bricio took home tournament MVP honors for the third time in her career and was joined on the all-tournament team by senior libero Natalie Hagglund and freshman outside hitter Ebony Nwanebu.
The Women of Troy have won five consecutive pre-conference tournament championships. USC posted a .435 hitting percentage (35k, 8e, 62att) and approached school records as the Trojans logged 15 service aces in the match. Defensively, Hagglund led all players with 10 digs and helped USC hold the Lady Bulldogs to a .043 hitting percentage (20k, 17e, 70att). Hagglund even played a little outside hitter and had two kills (1e, 5att, .200), a solo block, and a block assist to go with a service ace of her own.
Bricio had a quiet night by her own standards but produced a team-high nine points with four kills (0e, 5att, .800) and five service aces. It is the sixth time in her career that she has had at least three service aces in a match. Senior outside hitter Sara Shaw shared team-high honors with sophomore middle blocker Kiara Wright as each had seven kills without error. Shaw hit .500 (14att) and had three digs. Wright hit .875 (8att) and posted three block assists.
14 different USC players made meaningful contributions in the match. Freshman Elise Ruddins scored five kills (0e, 8att, .625) while freshman setter Alice Pizzasegola had nine assists, three aces, and three digs. All three of USC's freshman liberos saw live action. Anne Marie Schmidt and Kelly Wimmer each appeared in their first collegiate match.
For the Bulldogs, Leslie Ekpe did her best to keep her team in the match as she led the way with 12 kills (2e, 19att) and a .526 hitting percentage. Five players had negative hitting percentages however as AAMU had trouble staying with USC.
The Trojans never trailed throughout the entire match and faced just one tie score at one-all in the first set. Pizzasegola connected with Olgard on a quick set to put USC up, 7-5. Olgard then went back to serve the next five rallies. Her first produced a Bulldog error but her next three garnered three straight aces for the 6-5 middle. A kill by Wright put the Trojans in front by six points at 14-8, but they didn't relent as Bricio went to the baseline to serve up four service aces through a sequence of rallies that ended with USC up by 13 at 21-8. A&M fought back but only managed a few points as Pizzasegola served an ace for set point and then set Shaw for a kill and the 25-13 win. The Trojans had just nine kills (4e, 16att) but maintained a .312 hitting percentage. The Bulldogs were held to a .000 hitting rate (5k, 5e, 13att).
Three USC players logged three kills apiece in the second set to help bring the Trojans a 25-14 win and a 2-0 lead in the match. The first of Bricio's three kills created a 10-4 lead for the Women of Troy who later went up by 10 points on another Bricio kill, 17-7. Ruddins earned one of her three kills to set USC up with a 19-10 advantage but Pizzasegola dropped two service aces on the Dogs to open up a 21-10 lead. A&M managed to score a few more points but Bricio's third kill gave the Trojans a 23-13 lead. Junior outside Emily Young closed the doggy door on the Bulldogs with the final point of the set. USC put up a .556 hitting percentage in the second frame with 13 kills (3e) on 18 swings.
Young carried her momentum into the final set as she took three straight swings that produced points for an 8-2 USC lead. The Trojans were unrelenting as they rolled to a 25-9 win. Freshman libero Taylor Whittingham's service ace produced a 13-2 lead for the Women of Troy, but USC really started to do damage when a kill by Wright put the ball in junior setter Hayley Crone's hands. With Schmidt in the match at the libero position, Hagglund shifted into a hitter role. Crone served six balls and earned one service ace. On two other rallies, she set Hagglund for a pair of kills on back-to-back rallies. Hagglund didn't let the ball back over to the USC side and earned the first solo block of her career against Ekpe to rip open a 22-5 lead for the Trojans. The Bulldogs didn't go quietly and scored a few more points before Crone connected with Ruddins for back-to-back kills to end the match in a sweep. USC had just one error in the third set and took 28 swings to get 13 kills for a .429 hitting percentage. The Trojan defense was impressive as it held the Bulldogs to a negative .061 hitting percentage with six kills (8e) on 33 attacks.
Not including USC's three players, the second-place team in the tournament (WKU) had two players on the all-tournament team: Ashley Potts and Lindsay Spears. Alabama A&M's Ashley Forman received all-tournament honors and Purdue's Faye Adelaja was honored from the teams tied for third place.
Following a respite at home, the Trojans will return to the Midwest for the Marquette Challenge on Friday (Sept. 6) hosted by Marquette in Milwaukee, Wis. USC will play TCU at 1 p.m. CT (11 a.m. PT) and Marquette at 7 p.m. CT (5 p.m. PT). The Trojans will also face Northern Illinois in a separate match on Saturday (Sept. 7) in DeKalb, Ill., at 1 p.m. CT (11 a.m. PT). For more information and a complete schedule, please visit USCTrojans.com.