No. 2 Trojans Set to Begin Defense of Pac-12 Title
Sept. 17, 2012
LOS ANGELES - In what is normally already a heated rivalry, the intensity will be ratcheted up another notch when UCLA visits Galen Center on Wednesday. This time, the top ranking in the country is on the line. For just the second time, the two historic programs will meet in a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup.
The only previous time that the Trojans and Bruins took the floor as in a 1-v-2 bout was on Oct. 19, 1984. That time, the second-ranked Bruins shocked a top-ranked USC team by overcoming a two-set deficit to win, 14-16, 9-15, 15-13, 15-10, 15-4.
Last year, the Trojans opened the inaugural Pac-12 season as hosts of the Bruins and suffered a 3-0 loss. USC later avenged that loss on the final night of the regular season and secured the first-ever Pac-12 title. The Trojans and Bruins each advanced to the NCAA semifinals where UCLA won a pair of matches to claim its first national championship in 20 years.
The Trojans just completed the sixth unbeaten pre-conference tournament season in 12 years under head coach Mick Haley. In four of the previous five times, USC advanced to the NCAA semifinals and twice won the NCAA title (2002, '03). The Women of Troy are 6-0 at home, this season, and suffered just one home loss a year ago. The Trojans now must test their mettle against the always-competitive Pac-12 Conference where they are 8-3 in previous league openers under Haley.
TOURNAMENT RECAP: The Women of Troy completed the pre-conference tournament schedule with a trio of 3-0 sweeps in Fort Worth, Texas, where they claimed the TCU Molten Invitational crown. Freshman outside hitter Samantha Bricio took home her second MVP trophy and was named to her fourth all-tournament team. Bricio was joined by a pair of familiar faces as senior opposite Katie Fuller and junior libero Natalie Hagglund each also received all-tournament nods for the fourth time, this fall. The Trojans faced a stiff challenge from the host Horned Frogs on the first night, but came away with a 26-24, 25-22, 27-25 win. From there, USC ran away with the tourney crown as it completed a 25-18, 25-14, 25-9 win against Lehigh, and a 25-7, 25-12, 25-15 victory over Prairie View A&M. The unbeaten 12-0 tournament record marked the sixth time that USC has gone through pre-league tournaments unscathed in 12 years under head coach Mick Haley. In four of the previous five times, the Trojans advanced all the way to the NCAA semifinals later in the year and twice won the NCAA championship (2002, '03).
1-2 PUNCH: For just the second time in the history of the storied USC-UCLA rivalry, the Trojans and Bruins will meet as Nos. 1 and 2 in the national rankings. The other matchup occurred on Oct. 19. 1984, when the Women of Troy took a two-set lead at home against UCLA, but the Bruins came back to complete a five-set victory, 14-16, 9-15, 15-13, 15-10, 15-4. The last time that USC was involved in a 1-2 match, a second-ranked Trojan team fell in five sets to a top-ranked four-time defending NCAA champion Penn State team, 21-25, 21-25, 25-20, 25-22, 15-8, in Happy Valley on Aug. 27, 2011.
TROJANS IN TV LAND: The Women of Troy will appear in at least 15 televised matches, this season. With the arrival of the new Pac-12 Networks, over 80 conference events are scheduled for broadcast, this fall. USC had the honor and privilege of being part of the first-ever live women's volleyball event on the new networks on Tuesday, Aug. 28, when it hosted Jiangsu China in an exhibition match. The Trojans are slated to appear 13 times on Pac-12 Networks; five times at Galen Center, and eight times as the road team. The Sept. 19 rivalry match against defending NCAA champion UCLA will be broadcast by ESPNU with Sam Gore and Karch Kiraly.
NO. 1 UCLA SCOUTING REPORT: Since dropping a five-set match at Nebraska, the defending NCAA champion Bruins have returned to claim the top spot in the AVCA poll. UCLA has since won seven matches in a row and is coming off a five-set road victory at Colorado State (25-20, 22-25, 25-21, 13-25, 15-10) on Sept. 15. The Bruin offense is powered by senior outside hitters Tabi Love (3.97 kps) and Rachael Kidder (3.69 kps), while sophomore middle blocker Zoe Nightingale patrols the net for 1.26 bps. Senior outside Bojana Todorovic leads the team and is sixth in the conference in digs (3.83 dps). UCLA ranks third in the Pac-12 for blocks at 3.06 bps. The Trojans and Bruins are an even 5-5 in the last 10 meetings, but USC owns a 52-45 lead in the all-time series history. Last year, UCLA claimed a three-set win (25-19, 25-17, 25-17) to open Pac-12 play at the Galen Center, but USC returned the favor and won in four sets (24-26, 26-24, 25-21, 25-20) to close the regular season and claim the first-ever Pac-12 Conference Championship. At home, USC is 19-18 all-time against UCLA.
NO. 8 OREGON SCOUTING REPORT: The No. 8 Ducks are one of eight remaining unbeaten teams in the nation. Oregon has dropped just four sets on the way to its 9-0 record. In their only five-set test, the Ducks came back from two sets down to knock off No. 24 Ohio State on the road, 17-25, 21-25, 25-14, 26-24, 15-10. Oregon has won its last seven sets and swept a pair of teams over the weekend (Saint Mary's College and Portland State). Senior outside hitter Alaina Bergsma ranks second in the conference with 4.65 kills per set and is the top player in service aces (0.46 saps). Sophomore outside Liz Brenner is 10th in the league with 3.74 kps. Junior setter Lauren Plum tops all players in the Pac-12 with 12.55 aps and senior libero Jacob Haley is eighth in the league with 3.45 dps. USC is 8-2 in the last 10 meetings against Oregon and owns a seven-match winning streak. The Trojans swept the last meeting, 3-0 (25-21, 25-17, 25-23), on Nov. 12. The Women of Troy are on a 21-match home winning streak and have not lost at home against the Ducks since 1990.