USC Cages Cougars to Advance to NCAA Regional Final
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Dec. 13, 2013
LOS ANGELES - The sixth-seeded USC women's volleyball team (29-5) put together a complete match to take out 21st-ranked BYU (24-7) in four sets (32-30, 25-13, 21-25, 25-16) in the 2013 NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball Championship Los Angeles Regional semifinal at Galen Center on Friday, Dec. 13. The win propels the Women of Troy into the regional championship match for the ninth time in 13 years under head coach Mick Haley.
The Trojans were led by sophomore outside hitter Samantha Bricio who had the hot hand with a season-high 30.0 points on 22 kills (4e, 53att, .340), five service aces, and four blocks (two solo). It is the seventh time in her career that she has produced a match with five aces of more (the sixth time this season). Bricio also recorded her team-high 10th double-double of the season with 13 digs; the 21st double-double of her career.
USC put up a well-rounded team effort as senior libero Natalie Hagglund posted 22 digs to cross the 20-dig mark for the 11th time this season. Hagglund kept the Cougar attack honest as she also handed out four assists. The Trojans hit .400 in the match with 71 kills (9e) on 155 attacks thanks to stellar setting by junior Hayley Crone who had 35 assists and eight digs and freshman Alice Pizzasegola who put up 25 assists and seven digs.
Freshman outside hitter Ebony Nwanebu was unconscionable as she logged 18 kills (1e, 33att) for a .515 hitting percentage and had 19.0 points in the match. At the other pin, freshman Elise Ruddins put up 15.5 points with 13 kills (1e, 26att) for a .462 hitting percentage to go with a career-high five blocks. Senior Sara Shaw collected eight kills (0e, 19att, .421) and 10 digs and sophomore middle blocker Alicia Ogoms started her first match of the year and finished with eight kills (0e, 13att) and a .615 hitting rate. Junior middle Hannah Schraer led all players with seven blocks.
As a team, USC posted 12 blocks and out-shined BYU, which had just two blocks. The Cougars were the nation's fourth-best blocking team (3.00 bps) coming into the match. The BYU offense produced 64.0 points and hit .235 (63k, 24e, 166att) led by Alexa Gray who had a match-high 23 kills (8e, 55att, .273) including a third set in which she had 11 kills and hit .500. Kathryn LeCheminant added 12 kills (1e, 21att, .524) and Tambre Haddock had 13 kills (9e, 34att, .089) to go with 17 digs for a double-double. Jessica Jardine put up 11 kills (3e, 26att, .308) while Ciara Parker tied for match-high honors with 17 digs.
The Trojans and the Cougars played a barnburner of a first set and saw the score tied 19 times before USC prevailed, 32-30, marking the highest scoring set for USC since Nov. 28, 2009. The Trojans grabbed an early 6-4 lead, but Haddock had the kill to knot the score at six-all; the set's fourth tie. BYU went ahead, 11-9, when LeCheminant connected on the slide for a kill, but Nwanebu knotted things up on back-to-back kills. Gray got a kill to pull the Cougars out in front by three, 20-17, and put the Trojans on their heels, but USC stayed the course and got back-to-back points from Bricio to tie the score for the 12th time at 23-all when Shaw set Bricio for a back-row kill. USC fought off six set points and tied the score at 30-all when Bricio tipped a shot to the ground. She then went back to serve and earned an ace and set point before Shaw tooled the Cougar block for the 32-30 win. Both teams earned 25 kills in the opening frame, but USC hit .393 (3e, 56att) to out-pace BYU's .317 hitting percentage (5e, 63att).
Gray notched her third kill of the second set to pull her team into a four-all tie, but USC's 8-7 lead was the beginning of the end as Shaw went high-hands on her attempt to score the point. Nwanebu did the same and pulled USC out in front, 10-7. The Cougars stayed within striking distance for a couple of rallies, but the Trojans scored three straight with a kill from Nwanebu, an incredibly sharp cut shot by Bricio from Ogoms, and a big block by Ogoms and Ruddins to lead, 16-11. There was no slowing the Trojan train as Bricio scored back-to-back aces to pull USC out to a 19-12 lead. BYU's only remaining point came from a Trojan error as USC pulled away to complete a 12-3 run and close out a 25-13 win in the second set for a 2-0 lead in the match. The Trojans had 13 kills (2e, 24att) and hit .458 in the second set and blew BYU out of the water with a 6-0 blocking margin to hold the Cougars to a negative .038 hitting rate (7k, 8e, 26att).
Out of the break, the Cougars made the proper adjustments to get on the board with a 25-21 win in the third set. Despite a USC effort in which it produced 18 kills (4e, 42att) and hit .333, BYU was just one step better with 18 kills (2e, 36att) for a .444 hitting rate. Gray collected 11 kills and powered the Cougar offense. She earned her sixth of the set through just 10 rallies to give BYU a 7-3 lead. USC climbed within three points at 13-10 when Bricio went crosscourt for a kill, and at 14-11 when Nwanebu tattooed a Cougar defender for the point, but in the blink of an eye, BYU was up, 18-11. USC scored three straight points thanks to a kill by Ruddins off a long rally followed by another Bricio ace and a pipe-set kill by Bricio from Pizzasegola, but the Cougars held the Trojans at bay and seized set point at 24-19 on a kill by Haddock. USC saved two but Jardine ended things with her kill.
USC took no prisoners in the fourth set and scored 19 points with 15 kills and no errors (33att) for a .455 hitting percentage. The Trojans also had four blocks in the final frame to hold BYU to a .098 hitting rate (13k, 9e, 41att) and seal the victory. USC scored the first three points of the set on kills from Bricio and Nwanebu. The Cougars clawed their way back into the game and got within a point at 6-5 but committed too many errors to ever climb over the hump. Schraer put a ball down on an overpass and Bricio tooled the BYU block for a 12-7 lead before back-to-back Trojan blocks secured a 16-9 lead for USC. The USC block continued to hold strong and produced a 20-12 lead as Ruddins and Schraer teamed to reject Haddock twice. Ogoms took a quick set from Crone and put it down before Ruddins took a set from Hagglund for the kill and a 24-16 lead. Gray went long on her final attempt to seal a 25-16 win for the Trojans.
The Trojans advance to face third-seeded Washington (29-2) in the Los Angeles Regional Championship final set for 8:30 p.m. PT on Saturday, Dec. 14, at Galen Center. The match will be broadcast live on ESPNU with Sam Gore and Holly McPeak calling the action. The Huskies defeated 14th-seeded Kansas, 3-0, in the earlier semifinal and handed USC its only home loss this season on Oct. 27. Please visit USCTrojans.com for more information.