No. 4 Trojans Take Road Show to Salt Lake City
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Sept. 28, 2013
LOS ANGELES - The fourth-ranked USC women’s volleyball team (11-1, 1-0 Pac-12) carries a five-match winning streak into its first conference road test of the season. The Women of Troy are just 6-6 in league openers on the road under head coach Mick Haley and must face a tough Utah squad (12-1, 1-0) in a Sunday matinee (1 p.m. MT) on Sept. 29, at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City. The matchup will be USC’s first to be shown live on the Pac-12 Networks, this fall. Anne Marie Anderson and Kelli Tennant will call the action.
USC has won all five of its matches (and dropped just two sets) since suffering a loss to then No. 9-ranked San Diego on the road. The Trojans can equal the season’s longest streak with a win over the Utes. USC has won each of the last eight meetings against Utah including a 3-1 win in Salt Lake City, last November. The Trojans own an 11-1 all-time mark against the Utes.
The Trojans hold a 25-2 all-time record in the state of Utah and last lost in the state in 1979 when they dropped each of their matches at the Utah State Classic to the Aggies and to Pacific. USC is 4-0 in road matches against the Utes. Last season, while the Trojans racked up a 9-1 mark at home, they were 6-4 in conference road contests and suffered losses at Washington, UCLA, Arizona State, and Stanford.
Offensively, USC’s weaponry is spread across eight different hitters. Freshman OH Elise Ruddins leads the team and ranks ninth in the Pac-12 with 3.35 kps. Sophomore OH Samantha Bricio puts up 3.05 kps and is the conference leader for service aces (28) at 0.68 saps. Clocked at over 50 miles per hour, Bricio has had four matches, this season, in which she has posted three service aces or more and ranks ninth in the Pac-12 at 4.21 points per set.
Freshman OH Ebony Nwanebu is third on the team with 2.97 kps and also ranks third with 0.82 blocks per set. At the other outside positions, senior OH Sara Shaw is recording 2.13 kps and is second on the team with 2.36 dps. Junior OH Emily Young has become a steady force for the Trojans with 1.77 kps.
Defensively, the Trojans lean on senior All-American Natalie Hagglund who puts up 4.60 digs per set (fourth in the Pac-12). Senior MB Alexis Olgard leads the team with 1.20 bps and is also an offensive threat with 1.90 kps with a .435 hitting percentage that ranks third in the conference and 17th in the country. Junior MB Hannah Schraer is just a shade behind with 1.09 bps and puts up 1.12 kps.
At the heart of the USC offense, setters Hayley Crone (6.05 aps) and Alice Pizzasegola (5.33 aps) run the show. Head coach Mick Haley is closing in on his 1,100 win as a women’s collegiate head coach (including seven years at Kellogg CC). He has 1,098 victories heading into this weekend’s match with Utah.
SCOUTING UTAH: The Utes (12-1, 1-0 Pac-12) completed non-conference play with an impressive 11-1 mark and dropped their only match to rival BYU in a five-set heartbreaker. Utah opened league play by edging Colorado in five sets and is off to its best start since 2006 when it was 11-2 through 13 matches. Coincidentally, one of those two losses came against USC. The Utes ended up finishing 2006 with a perfect record in the Mountain West (16-0) and a 28-4 overall mark with a trip to the NCAA tournament. Like the Trojans, the Utes run a 6-2 offensive system, which employs two setters. Sophomore setter Kendall Cygan starts the match (5.89 aps) and puts up 1.63 digs per set. Junior Kalee Kirby (5.37 aps) is the other setter. Junior right side Shelby Dalton leads the Utes with 2.75 kps and is hitting .316 this season. She also ranks ninth in the Pac-12 for blocks (1.18 bps). Senior MB Erin Redd-Brandon was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week earlier this season and leads the conference with 1.44 bps (7th in the NCAA). Redd-Brandon also puts up 2.17 kps and tops the team with a .340 hitting percentage. Junior libero Lea Adolph leads the team with 3.22 dps and 0.37 service aces (7th in the Pac-12). Senior OH Morgan Odale has three double-doubles, this season, and puts up 2.20 kps (.270) to go with 2.56 dps and 0.52 bps.
THE MATCHUP: The Trojans and the Utes will meet for the 13th time in program history. USC leads the all-time series, 11-1, and has won each of the last eight meetings. The Trojans’ only loss to Utah came in 1986, a 3-2 decision at home on Sept. 9. The last time the two teams met, USC claimed a 3-1 win in Salt Lake City at Crimson Court on Nov. 9, 2012. The Trojans have swept the season series in each of the two years that Utah has been part of the Pac-12.
UTAH HEAD COACH BETH LAUNIERE: Utah head coach Beth Launiere is in her 24th season and holds a 462-278 (.624) career record. She has coached three MWC Players of the Year and four AVCA All-Americans.
FRESH AWARDS: Each of USC’s freshmen outside hitters has been named Pac-12 Freshman of the Week, this season. Ebony Nwanebu was selected for the first week of the year when she helped carry the Trojans to three big wins at the Mortar Board Premier tournament. She averaged 3.75 kps and 1.12 bps in the victories. Elise Ruddins was chosen for weekly freshman honors for the week of Sept. 9-15 following a breakout weekend in which she had 38 kills (5.43 kps) including 24 against UC Santa Barbara at the USD Tournament. Ruddins logged nine kills in the first set alone against the Gauchos. Nwanebu and Ruddins earned the Trojans’ sixth and seventh weekly freshman certificates. Samantha Bricio was named Freshman of the Week five times in 2012.
HALEY CLOSING IN ON 1100: Head coach Mick Haley is just two victories from recording his 1,100th as a women’s collegiate head coach. He has 325 with USC, 522 with Texas, and 348 with Kellogg CC.
TROJAN TRACKER: Get social with the Women of Troy this season. Fans can follow and interact with the USC women’s volleyball team on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram by searching for USCWomensVolley.