Women's Volleyball
    USC Drops Five-Set Bear Fight to California

    Samantha Bricio became the Pac-12's all-time career service aces leader with three against Cal.

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    Nov. 14, 2014

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    LOS ANGELES - The No. 21-ranked USC women's volleyball team (14-12, 7-9 Pac-12) dropped a five-set decision, 21-25, 25-23, 23-25, 25-15, 15-13, to California (9-16, 1-14) at the Galen Center on Friday, Nov. 14. The Women of Troy celebrated the careers of seniors Hayley Crone, Hannah Schraer, and Emily Young in pre-match ceremonies.

    It was the seventh time in nine visits from the Golden Bears that the two teams had gone five sets at USC's arena. The Trojans had won all of the previous matches. For Cal, the victory snapped a 14-match losing streak and was the Bears' first win in league play this season. Since winning five of six matches, the Trojans have lost five of the last seven, and must finish the regular season with four straight road matches.

    During the match, outside hitter Samantha Bricio set a new Pac-12 record for career aces as she passed UCLA's Daiva Tomkus (198) who played from 1986-89. Bricio overcame the nearly three-decade old mark by two and now has 200 career aces. Bricio finished the night with 27.0 points on 23 kills (7e, 64att, .250), three aces, and two blocks. She also added 11 digs for her 13th double-double of the season (35th of her career).

    Sophomore outside hitter Ebony Nwanebu added 19 kills while hitting .312 (4e, 48att). Nwanebu also notched three service aces to set a new career mark and finished with two blocks and six digs on defense. Sophomore outside hitter Elise Ruddins contributed 10 kills (1e, 29att) and hit .310 with an ace, a block, and seven digs.

    USC's defensive leaders were sophomore libero Taylor Whittingham who had 25 digs and freshman middle blocker Jordan Dunn who finished with a career high eight blocks including two solo stuffs. At the other middle position, Schraer had three kills and three blocks (one solo). Trojan setters Alice Pizzasegola and Young set USC to a .241 hitting percentage with 61 kills (20e) on 170 swings. Pizzasegola finished with 31 assists and eight digs while Young tallied 22 assists, three blocks, and two kills.

    For the Bears, four players had double digits in kills including team leader Christina Higgins who had 22 (3e, 62att) while hitting .306. Cal got a lot out of its middle hitters where Lillian Schonewise scored 21 kills (5e, 34att) and hit .471. Lara Vukasovic finished with 14 kills (4e, 25att, .400) including the final point of the match. The Bears got a big night from Nikki Gombar who pitched in 13 kills (6e, 33att, .212) and posted a double-double with 20 digs. Alyssa Jensen handed out 66 assists and had eight digs. Cal dug up 80 of USC's 170 attacks and got 18 from Maddy Kerr and 15 from Marlee Davis.

    Cal had the upper hand in the first set as Schonewise's kill put the Bears up, 7-4, but USC knotted the score at nine-all on a big block by Schraer. Schraer broke the sixth tie of the set and put a 13-12 lead in the Trojans' hands as she scored on a quick set from Pizzasegola. It was the third and last time the lead would change as USC built its lead to four at 18-14 on a kill down the line from Ruddins and then scored set point at 24-21 when Ruddins put a Cal defender Mary McKennon on notice with a six-pack shot. The Bears committed one final error to seal USC's 25-21 win in the opening frame.

    USC led the second set by four at 19-15 when Nwanebu knocked down back-to-back kills, but the Bears clawed their way back into contention with a 7-0 run that gave Cal a 22-19 lead as Schonewise slid out for the kill. Nwanebu went down the line for a kill to stop the run before Bricio scored her second and third aces of the match to knot the score one last time at 22-all. Schonewise ran the same play to score and break the tie before Higgins used the USC block to equalize the match at one set apiece on a 25-23 Cal win.

    It appeared as if the Bears would run away with the third set as they claimed an early five-point lead on a crosscourt terminator from Higgins, but the Trojans kept fighting and came up with a 20-all tie when Nwanebu stepped inside for a big kill. Bricio scored four kills in six rallies to get USC within a point at 18-17, but the Bears maintained a three-point lead at 20-17 before Nwanebu came alive and scored four kills and an ace to flip the scoreboard into a 23-21 lead for the Trojans. Ruddins tipped a shot to the floor to give USC set point at 24-22 before Bricio flew in for the crosscourt kill and a 25-23 Trojan win for a 2-1 lead in the match.

    In the fourth set, Cal came out the same way it did in the third, but this time, there would be no USC comeback. The Bears lead, 10-5, on a slide kill from Vukasovic, and allowed the Trojans to commit the necessary errors to walk out to a 20-11 lead. USC had a little fight in it down the stretch, but it was too late as the Schonewise-Higgins combo struck again to score the final two points in a 25-15 win that send the match to a fifth frame.

    Cal scored the first two points of the fifth set in convincing fashion, but the Trojans held court and tied things up on a pair of kills from Bricio. Nwanebu scored twice to keep USC close and tied the score at four-all before Young dumped her pass for a 5-4 Trojan lead. Dunn and Young got up on back-to-back plays to stuff Gombar and give USC a 7-4 lead and it appeared the Trojans would go up by four at 8-4, but a tight call on a ball that dropped on the Cal side of the court kept the Bears within striking distance. The Women of Troy were unfazed and scored two more to grab that four-point lead at 9-5 as Ruddins tooled the block and Dunn went up alone to block Schonewise. The bears ripped off a 5-1 run from there to tie the score at 10s. USC went up once more at 11-10 on a tool-shot by Nwanebu, but Cal kept the pressure on and claimed match point at 14-12 on back-to-back kills from Higgins. Nwanebu saved one by going high hands off the Bear block before Vukasovic had the last word by tooling Trojan blockers for the final point of the match.

    The Trojans now finish out the regular season with four straight matches on the road and will start with two in the Pacific Northwest at Oregon State (Friday, Nov. 21) and Oregon (Sunday, Nov. 23). USC takes on the Beavers at 5:30 p.m. from Gill Coliseum in Corvallis, Ore., and will face the Ducks at Matt Knight Arena in Eugene, Ore., at 11 a.m. The Trojans must play four matches in eight days as it then heads out to Tucson, Ariz., for a Wednesday-night bout with Arizona on Nov. 26, and then finishes out the season at UCLA on Friday, Nov. 28.

    For more information on the USC women's volleyball team and a complete schedule, please visit USCTrojans.com and follow @USCWomensVolley on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

    MATCH NOTES

    • USC fell to 53-12 in its all-time series with California.
    • The Women of Troy celebrated the careers of seniors Hayley Crone, Hannah Schraer, and Emily Young in pre-match ceremonies.
    • The Trojans and the Bears played a five-set match at the Galen Center for the seventh time in nine years.
    • California won its first match at Galen Center in nine tries.
    • Cal snapped a seven-match losing streak to the Trojans and won a road match against USC for the first time since 2004.
    • With the loss, the Trojans finish the home schedule with a 4-8 (.333) record this season. It is the most home losses ever suffered at the Galen Center and included first-time wins at the arena by four new opponents (Texas A&M, Florida, Arizona State, California).
    • Junior OH Samantha Bricio recorded three service aces to give her 72 this season, and 200 in her career. She became the Pac-12 career record holder and the first-ever player to record 200 career aces as she passed a nearly three-decade old record of 198 set by UCLA's Daiva Tomkus (1986-89). It was also the 27th time in her career that she has had at least three aces in a single match.
    • Bricio finished with 23 kills and 11 digs for her 13th double-double this season (35th of her career).
    • Sophomore OH Ebony Nwanebu posted a career-high three service aces.
    • Sophomore libero Taylor Whittingham had her 21st match in double digits for digs and finished with 25. It was her ninth match with 20 digs or more this year.