No. 4 USC Opens 2013 at Mortar Board Premier|
Aug 29, 2013
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2013 Mortar Board Premier - Hosted by Purdue
LOS ANGELES - The fourth-ranked USC women's volleyball team (0-0) will break the seal on 2013 when it travels to West Lafayette, Ind., for the Mortar Board Premier hosted by Purdue. The Women of Troy and the 16th-ranked Boilermakers (0-0) will square off in the tourney's second match at 7 p.m. ET (4 p.m. PT) at Holloway Gymnasium on Friday, Aug. 30.
The Trojans will also have to contend with a No. 21-ranked Western Kentucky (0-0) squad in a noon ET match on Saturday, Aug. 31, before they close the opening weekend of the season with a 7:30 p.m. ET bout against Alabama A&M (0-0). USC is 4-0 in all-time matches against Purdue but will be meeting the Lady Toppers and the Lady Bulldogs for the first time in program history.
USC is 10-2 in season openers under head coach Mick Haley and has won each of the last three openers. Overall, the Trojans are 31-6 in season openers and 9-3 when the opening match is on the road.
The Women of Troy are led by two-time AVCA All-American and Pac-12 Libero of the Year Natalie Hagglund who is within striking distance of the program's all-time career mark for digs. USC also welcomes back last year's Volleyball Magazine National Freshman of the Year Samantha Bricio. The sophomore outside hitter was also the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and carried the bulk of USC's offensive load. She will have help as the Trojans look to seniors Sara Shaw and Alexis Olgard, a seasoned setting veteran in junior Hayley Crone, and the nation's second-ranked recruiting class.
SCOUTING PURDUE: The 16th-ranked Boilermakers (23-11, 12-8 Big Ten 2012) are a team to be reckoned with. Though it finished fifth in the Big Ten, last year, Purdue advanced to the NCAA regional semifinal for the sixth time in eight seasons. It was also the program's eighth NCAA tournament appearance in nine years. The Boilermakers return 11 players (who played) from the successful 2012 squad including five starters. 14 of the 15 players on Purdue's roster were on the roster last year. Senior libero Carly Cramer is poised for a big season after she ranked fourth in the Big Ten in digs (4.15 dps) last season. Cramer was an All-Big Ten honorable mention and took home the league's Defensive Player of the Week honors. Cramer's accomplishments in 2012 also included crossing the 1,000-dig plateau, a 30-dig match, and leading the team in service aces with 36. The Boilermakers will have to find a way to replace the departed firepower of Ariel Turner who averaged 4.48 kps last season and was a second-team AVCA All-American. Two candidates in line are senior OH Catherine Rebarchak (2.20 kps, 2nd) and sophomore OH Annie Drews (2.14 kps, 3rd). Purdue will also have the benefit of its senior setter Rachel Davis who averaged 9.46 aps a season ago. Head coach Dave Shondell topped the 200-win mark last year and is now 214-119 heading into his 11th season in West Lafayette. The Trojans have met the Boilermakers four times in history and have won each match. The last time the two teams faced off in Columbus, Ohio (Sept. 15, 2007), USC claimed a 3-0 win in a neutral-site bout.
SCOUTING WESTERN KENTUCKY: No. 21-ranked Western Kentucky (33-4, 15-0 Sun Belt 2012) has risen to prominence under 19th-year head coach Travis Hudson (440-180) and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history in 2012. The Lady Toppers won the Sun Belt Conference with a 15-0 mark last year and return 10 players from that team including four starters and a libero. Junior MH Heather Boyan led the team with 340 kills (2.81 kps) and a .383 hitting percentage last season and was also the team's leading blocker (105). Senior libero Ashley Potts is a Senior CLASS Award candidate and led her team with 571 digs as a junior (4.72 dps). WKU's other senior starter is setter Melanie Stutsman who posted 1,366 assists last year (11.20 aps). This will mark the first-ever meeting between USC and Western Kentucky.
SCOUTING ALABAMA A&M: Alabama A&M (12-20, 6-2 SWAC 2012) was just one win from making its 10th NCAA tournament appearance in school history a year ago. Despite finishing with a 12-20 overall record, the Lady Bulldogs advanced to the SWAC tournament's championship match before suffering a four-set loss to Jackson State. AAMU has won 20 conference titles in its history and is under the direction of head coach Nedra Brown who has taken her team to four of its NCAA berths. The Bulldogs will have to replace its most prolific scorer from one year ago with the departure of Clairissa Moore (3.95 kps, 21 service aces, 4.33 pps). Senior setter Ashley Forman posted 876 assists a year ago and led the team in digs (2.52 dps). This will be the first meeting between the Trojans and the Lady Bulldogs.
USC PICKED TWO BY THE CREW: The Trojans were picked to finish second in the Pac-12 through a preseason poll of the league's coaches. USC received two first-place votes and earned 111 points behind Stanford, which grabbed 10 first-place votes and had 120 points. Washington, Oregon, and UCLA were tabbed to finish third, fourth, and fifth respectively. Arizona State was picked sixth, and was followed by California, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado. Washington State and Oregon State were picked to finish 11th and 12th. The Women of Troy have the distinction of winning the first-ever Pac-12 title in 2011 and are the holders of seven league crowns (1976, '77, '80, 2000, '02, '03, '11). The top team in the Pac-12 preseason coaches' poll has gone on to win at least a share of the league title 17 times out of the 27 years since the poll's inception in 1986. USC has been selected to win the conference five times since 1998.
2013 WOMEN OF TROY: The Trojans return the core of a highly successful squad from one year ago and will add the nation's second-ranked recruiting class according to PrepVolleyball.com. All-American senior Natalie Hagglund has been to two NCAA semifinal matches and is poised to become the most prolific libero in program history. She is flanked by a pair of senior leaders in OH Sara Shaw and MB Alexis Olgard who each have unparalleled match experience. Junior setter Hayley Crone will direct the offense while her fellow third-year cohort OH Emily Young will step in to replace the firepower lost from since-departed All-American opposite Katie Fuller. Junior MB Hannah Schraer is also a key cog in USC's improved middle game. Volleyball Magazine National Freshman of the Year Samantha Bricio highlights a strong sophomore class. Bricio led the Trojans in scoring last season and starred on the international stage over the summer with Mexico's national team. OH Kiara Wright and MB Alicia Ogoms bolster the returning players with athleticism and a strong year under their belts. USC will welcome a pair of highly-touted outside hitters in its freshman class as Ebony Nwanebu and Elise Ruddins join the fold. The first-year class also includes the services of Italian import Alice Pizzasegola and three liberos Anne Marie Schmidt, Taylor Whittingham, and Kelly Wimmer.
PRESEASON ALL-CONFERENCE HONORS: USC senior libero Natalie Hagglund and sophomore outside hitter Samantha Briciowere each selected by the league's coaches to the first-ever Pac-12 Preseason All-Conference Team. USC was one of four teams to have multiple players chosen to the team. Defending champion Stanford topped all teams with four selections. Oregon, Washington, and USC each had a pair while Arizona, Arizona State, California, and UCLA were each represented by a single player on the preseason all-conference team.
TROJANS WELCOME NO. 2-RANKED FRESHMAN CLASS: Last fall, USC signed a pair of highly-touted top 10 recruits: Ebony Nwanebu (Lucas, Texas/Lovejoy HS) and Elise Ruddins (Laguna Niguel, Calif./Aliso Niguel HS). Ruddins is a 6-3 middle blocker who played for Laguna Beach Volleyball Club and prepped at Aliso Niguel High School. She was rated No. 2 among high school recruits as PrepVolleyball.com's No. 2 Senior Ace. She is the niece of USC All-American setter Kim Ruddins (1981-85), a two-time Olympian (1984, '88) whose No. 3 jersey hangs in the rafters of the Galen Center. Nwanebu is a 6-4 outside hitter who was named to the Under Armour All-American first team and Texas Advantage Volleyball Club to the national championship this spring. She is PrepVolleyball.com's No. 7 Senior Ace and has been named to the LoneStarVolleyball.com All-Texas first team three times. The Trojans will also welcome the services of Alice Pizzasegola (Rivergaro, Italy) and three liberos in Anne Marie Schmidt (Saratoga, Calif./Archbishop Mitty HS), Taylor Whittingham (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif./Santa Margarita HS), and Kelly Wimmer (Los Altos Hills, Calif./Saint Francis HS).