No. 1 USC Grinds Out Four-Set Win Over Gauchos
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Sept. 14, 2013
SAN DIEGO - The top-ranked USC women's volleyball team (7-1) got back on the winning track with a 3-1 win (20-25, 25-21, 25-15, 26-24) over UC Santa Barbara (3-5) in the USD Tournament at Jenny Craig Pavilion on Saturday, Sept. 14. In her own coming out party, freshman outside hitter Elise Ruddins powered the Trojan offense with 24 kills (6e, 43att) and hit .419. The Women of Troy also got a double-double from senior outside hitter Sara Shaw who finished with 10 kills (5e, 32att, .156) and 12 digs.
Senior middle blocker Alexis Olgard had another strong outing with eight kills (2e, 15att, .400) and led the team with eight blocks (one solo). Sophomore outside Samantha Bricio put up eight kills (2e, 26att) to go with two service aces and 14 digs. Senior libero Natalie Hagglund dug up 28 balls to lead all players and had a service ace and five assists while Trojan setters Hayley Crone (30 assists, 4 digs) and Alice Pizzasegola (22 assists, 4 digs) paced the USC offense.
Freshman outside hitter Ebony Nwanebu contributed seven kills (4e, 23att, .130) and had five blocks and four digs while junior outside Emily Young tallied four kills (1e, 9att, .333). Junior middle Hannah Schraer had three kills and four blocks.
For the Gauchos, Katey Thompson led the way with 17 kills (3e, 33att, .424) and had five blocks. Phoebe Grunt was active at the net as she logged a match-high 11 blocks (all assists). UCSB had four players post double digits in digs including a team-high 17 from Leah Sully who earned a double-double with 10 kills (7e, 32att, .094).
The Trojans were out-blocked for the first time in eight matches (14-13) but still outhit the Gauchos .255 (64k, 23e, 161att) to .214 (49k, 18e, 145att). USC has recorded better hitting percentages than all eight of its opponents, this season. The Trojans posted a season-high 72 digs and matched a season best with 60 assists.
UCSB didn't commit a single hitting error in the first set to stun the Trojans with a 25-20 win. The Gauchos hit .520 in the opening frame with 13 kills on 25 swings. Despite nine kills from Ruddins, USC found itself fighting an uphill battle much of the way. A 10-all tie quickly turned into a 15-10 lead for UCSB as Sully served up an ace. USC fought back and got within a point on several occasions including at 20-19, but the Gauchos scored the final three points to seal the 1-0 lead.
The second-set lead changed hands four times and the score was tied 10 times before back-to-back kills by Shaw broke the final tie and put USC in front, 23-21. Shaw and Olgard teamed to block Thompson for set point before Crone set Bricio for the final kill of the frame to knot the match at one-all. The Trojans posted 17 kills (6e, 48att) for a .229 hitting percentage and held the Gauchos a shade back at .222 (13k, 3e, 45att) thanks to nine digs by Hagglund.
Hagglund opened the third set with a service ace before Shaw and Ruddins followed with kills on consecutive plays to kick-start the USC offense, which never trailed from that point on. Shaw's service ace made the score 10-6 for the Trojans but back-to-back kills for Ruddins ripped open a 20-10 USC lead. Pizzasegola set Shaw for a kill that earned set point at 24-15 before Bricio and Olgard teamed up for a stuff block that put the Trojans in front, 2-1, in the match. USC enjoyed its most efficient set with a .394 hitting percentage (16k, 3e, 33att) and continued to hold off the Gaucho attack which had 11 kills (7e, 33att) for a .121 hitting rate.
Both teams traded barbs to open the fourth set, but USC made the first move and grabbed a three-point lead, 11-8, when Ruddins and Schraer returned a Sully attack. The Trojans went ahead by five points at 15-10, and reached out to a 19-15 lead on a Bricio kill, but the Gauchos wouldn't go quietly as they mounted a comeback that tied the score at 23-all. A USC error put set point on UCSB's side of the court momentarily, but Nwanebu's kill and a pair of back-to-back blocks by the Trojans closed the deal on a 26-24 win in the fourth. The Gauchos played strong defense to hold USC to its worst hitting set at .152 (16k, 9e) on 46 attacks, but the Trojans were content to play that game as they forced UCSB into a .095 hitting percentage in the fourth stanza (12k, 8e, 42att).
USC is back in action in the final match of the USD Tournament where it will face Eastern Washington (3-6) at 5 p.m. PT at the Jenny Craig Pavilion. Please visit USCTrojans.com for more information and links to live scoring.