Longhorns Lasso Trojans for NCAA Semifinal Berth
Dec. 8, 2012
AUSTIN, Texas - The USC women's volleyball team (30-6) had its run in the 2012 NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball Championship cut short as third-seeded Texas (27-4) completed a 3-0 win (25-19, 25-22, 25-14) in the Austin Regional title match at Gregory Gym on Saturday, Dec. 8. The Longhorns earned their fourth NCAA semifinal berth in the last five years and will meet the winner of the Berkeley Regional on Thursday, Dec. 13.
In their ninth appearance in the NCAA regional championship match, the Women of Troy were led by senior opposite hitter Katie Fuller who had 10 kills and seven digs in her final match as a Trojan. Fuller completes her career in 10th place at USC with 1,115.5 points.
The Trojans also had a strong performance from junior outside hitter Sara Shaw who logged her seventh double-double of the season with 10 kills (2e, 21att, .381) and 10 digs. Sophomore setter Hayley Crone dished out 36 assists and finished the year with 1,337 assists, the eighth-best single-season performance by a Trojan.
Defensively, the Trojans were led by junior libero Natalie Hagglund's 14 digs. With her first dig of the night, Hagglund became just the second player in USC history to log at least 600 digs in a single season. Her 613 dig total is the third most behind two performances by Debora Seilhamer. Hagglund also moved into second place at USC for career digs as she passed Katie Haller's total of 1,702 (1990-93). Hagglund will begin her senior season with 1,706 digs.
The Longhorns did their part to neutralize freshman outside hitter Samantha Bricio who finished the night with seven kills (4e, .097) on 31 swings. Still, Bricio moved up the ladder on several single-season USC records including service aces (43; tied for seventh), kills (491; in ninth), attacks (1,325; second all-time), and points (567.0; in seventh).
Fuller and Shaw were each selected to the Austin Regional All-Tournament Team for their all-around performances in the regional championships.
For the Longhorns, Bailey Webster was unstoppable as she registered 17 kills (2e, 29att) and hit .517 in the match. Haley Eckerman was nearly as devastating on the offensive side of the net and finished with 11 kills (1e, 27att) and a .370 hitting rate. Sha'Dare McNeal pulled her own weight with 10 kills (3e, 17att) and a .412 hitting percentage. Molly McCage only had three kills (.750) but led all players with six blocks on the night.
Texas ever only trailed by a single point in the first set as it went on to claim a 25-19 win. The Longhorns had a two-point advantage at 6-4 but Crone dumped her pass for a kill and Shaw tooled the Texas block to tie the score. A Texas error swung the lead to USC's side of the scoreboard and the Trojans held until the set's seventh tie at nine-all. The Longhorns served tough and earned three aces in the first set; the second of which gave them a 10-9 lead that it would never relinquish. Texas opened up a five-point lead at 16-11 when Kat Brooks served up an ace, but the Trojans fought on to climb within three points at 19-16 when Fuller rolled a kill shot off of Hagglund's bump set. Texas replied with a three-point run that created a six-point lead before a pair of Fuller kills got USC within five at 23-18, but it was too late as Khat Bell put down the last ball for the Texas win. USC hit .323 in the first set (14k, 4e) on 31 swings, but was outdone by a .444 outing from the Longhorns who had 18 kills (2e) on 36 attacks.
After nabbing a quick 2-0 lead, the Trojans had a hard time establishing themselves in the second set as the Longhorns flipped the score for a 7-5 lead on a kill from McNeal. McNeal got help from the tape to slow her cut shot again for another kill and an eight-all tie. The teams traded barbs to a 10th tie at 14-all before Texas stepped in front, again, for an 18-15 lead on two straight kills by Eckerman. Texas led until Bricio went off-speed on one shot and cross-court on another for two kills and a 20-all tie, but the Longhorns had an answer and weathered the storm for a 24-21 lead off a controversial call that ended in a ruling that Bricio's attack did not touch the defender. Bricio went cross-court for a kill to get the Trojans within two points, 24-22, but Eckerman had the last say when she went down the line to seal a 25-22 win for the Horns. USC hit .357 on 42 swings (18k, 3e) while Texas had 18 kills (4e) on 38 attempts to post a .368 hitting rate.
USC scored the first point of the third set and had a 5-3 lead when Bricio met McNeal on a slide play to earn a solo block, but Texas stopped the Trojans in their tracks when it wrestled away the lead to go up, 6-5, on a block. The Women of Troy continued to battle and climbed within a point when Shaw went off-speed to earn a kill and get USC within a point at 9-8. The Trojans got a kill from junior middle blocker Alexis Olgard on a quick-set tip to get USC within a point once more at 10-9, but the Horns ripped off three straight points to lead by four. Only a Texas error stopped the Longhorn run, but Texas mounted another streak and reeled off five straight for an 18-10 gash that USC could not recover from. Fuller cut a shot to the ground to get USC's 11th point and freshman middle blocker Alicia Ogoms came up with a kill for a 21-13 deficit, but Shaw's tool shot gave the Trojans their final point, down 23-14. McNeal passed the next serve and flew across the court for a slide shot that earned Texas match point at 24-14. The next Longhorn serve forced the Trojans to overpass and allow Eckerman to knock the ball down for the final point. Texas had its best set with 14 kills (2e, 25att) for a scorching .480 hitting rate and had six blocks to hold the Trojans to a .029 hitting rate (9k, 8e) on 34 swings.
For more information, complete scores, and an updated bracket, for the 2012 NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball Championships, please visit www.NCAA.com.
2012 NCAA Austin Regional All-Tournament Team