No. 6 Trojans Set for Tests at Commonwealth Classic|
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2014 Commonwealth Classic
USC will have played six straight matches away from home to open the season but is familiar with the territory. The Trojans went 6-0 on the road to start 2013.
The Women of Troy will play in the state of Kentucky for just the third time in program history when they take on the Wildcats. USC’s only other matches in the Bluegrass State took place during the 2004 NCAA tournament when Louisville, Ky., hosted one of the regional championships. That year, the Trojans defeated San Diego and Nebraska en route to an appearance in the NCAA’s final four.
USC has faced teams from the state of Kentucky just twice. The Trojans beat Northern Kentucky, 15-3, 15-5, on Dec. 8, 1978, at the AIAW Championships in Tuscaloosa, Ala. In its only other match against a foe from the state, USC defeated Kentucky, 3-0 (15-9, 15-10, 15-4), in the Long Beach State Tournament on Nov. 29, 1996.
Following three wins in the Bankers Classic to open this season, USC improved to 12-2 in season openers under head coach Mick Haley and has won each of its last four openers. The Trojans showed flashes of greatness but experienced some highs and lows in their first tournament. While the Women of Troy dispatched of Rider (3-0), they struggled in their second set with Arkansas-Little Rock before pulling out a 3-1 win. Tourney host Pacific pushed the Trojans to the limit before USC stood fast to complete a 3-2 win with a 15-10 score in the fifth set.
USC returns All-American outside hitter Samantha Bricio as well as the 2013 AVCA Freshman of the Year Ebony Nwanebu. Running the offense, senior Hayley Crone and sophomore Alice Pizzasegola will distribute to a host of weapons.
Defensively, the Trojans will look to senior middle Hannah Schraer to be the shutdown blocker. Schraer was second on the team in blocks (1.01 bps) in 2013. Junior middle Alicia Ogoms will also factor into the Trojans’ defensive scheme, which must find a libero to replace All-American Natalie Hagglund. Sophomore defenders Anne Marie Schmidt and Taylor Whittingham will each vie for time on the court at the position. Senior opposite Emily Young and sophomore outside Elise Ruddins have each shown that they can score and provide a true physical presence at the point of attack.
USC broke in a crop of freshmen that was ranked No. 2 as a class by PrepVolleyball, last weekend. Hitters Lauryn Gillis, Brittany Abercrombie, Taylor Wheatley, and Sarah Livingston all got on the court and showed that they can contribute to the offense immediately. Gillis started all three matches and was strong at each position on the court. Middle blocker Jordan Dunn is a force to be reckoned with at 6-4, and will push for space in the rotation.