No. 19 USC Returns to PNW for Crucial Pac-12 Matches|
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Sept. 30, 2014
LOS ANGELES – The 19th-ranked USC women’s volleyball team (7-5, 0-2 Pac-12) embarks on its first conference road trip of the season but will return to a familiar locale as the Women of Troy head to the Pacific Northwest for matches against No. 4 Washington (13-0, 2-0) and Washington State (9-5, 0-2) this week.
The Trojans and the Huskies will meet at Alaska Airlines Arena in Seattle, Wash., for a 7:30 p.m. PT matchup on Wednesday, Oct. 1. The match will be on Pac-12 Networks with Krista Blunk and Al Scates on the broadcast. The Women of Troy then head into the Palouse to take on the Cougars at Bohler Gymnasium on Friday, Oct. 3, at 6 p.m. PT on the Pac-12 Networks with Scates and Greg Mescall on the call.
USC had won its first six matches to open the season, but the Trojans have since dropped five of its last six outings including all four home contests. The Women of Troy were in the Emerald City just two weeks ago for the Pac-12/Big Ten Showcase. USC dropped a four-set decision to No. 4 Wisconsin before they took a 3-0 win over Maryland. The Evergreen State hasn’t been kind to the Trojans though. Last year, USC dropped both of its conference matches in the state; a four-setter to Washington and a tough five-set loss to WSU. In fact, the Trojans are 4-6 in their last 10 matches in the Evergreen State.
The Trojans’ struggles come as a surprise to some, but inside the lines, USC has employed 10 different starting lineups over the course of just 12 matches and has fought through the growing pains of utilizing a roster front-loaded with 11 underclassmen. The Women of Troy are breaking in five freshmen and have needed time to synchronize and gel on the court. Despite its youth, USC has shown that it will put up a fight and has been truly tested against five top-20 squads. The Trojans knocked off a 16th-ranked Kentucky team on the road and went four sets with fourth-ranked Wisconsin on a neutral court.
The Women of Troy return a host of weapons at the disposal of setters Hayley Crone (5.73 aps) and Alice Pizzasegola (4.98 aps). Through 12 matches, the team is hitting .259 with 13.52 kills per set. Junior OH Samantha Bricio is a favorite target at the pins and has range out of the back row. She leads the team with 3.43 kps and ranks sixth in the Pac-12 in points (4.62 pps). Bricio is also a force from the back line. In 37 sets, she has racked up 39 service aces this season, to lead the Pac-12 and rank second in the country with 0.89 saps. With 167 aces, she sits in second all-time for career aces at USC and needs just four more to overtake the all-time mark. She is also in a fourth-place tie in Pac-12 history.
A force on the right side, sophomore OH Ebony Nwanebu is averaging 2.81 kps (.265) this season. A pair of freshmen outside hitters has stepped straight into major roles for the Trojans’ rotation and help load the court with players that can score at any time. OH Brittany Abercrombie was an all-tournament team selection in pre-conference play and puts up 2.00 kps with a .248 hitting rate while OH Lauryn Gillis has started every match for USC and knocks down 2.45 kps (.202) and is third on the team with 2.34 dps.
Defensively, the Trojans have gotten strong production from junior MB Alicia Ogoms who leads the team with 1.05 bps. Ogoms also delivers on the offensive end with 1.43 kps and a .338 hitting percentage. The Women of Troy can also go young in the middle with freshman Jordan Dunn who has posted 1.36 kps to go with a .463 hitting rate this season. In the backcourt, sophomore libero Taylor Whittingham (3.90 dps) anchors the Trojan defense.
SCOUTING WASHINGTON: The fourth-ranked Huskies (13-0, 2-0 Pac-12) are undefeated, though they needed to go five sets on Sept. 26 to defeat California on the road. The 2013 Pac-12 Player of the Year, Krista Vansant, powers the Washington offense. The senior OH leads her team with 4.30 kps (fourth in the Pac-12). Other contributing Husky pin hitters include senior OH Kaleigh Nelson and freshman OH Tia Scambray, with 2.74 kps and 2.39 kps, respectively. Scambray has twice been named the conference’s freshman of the week this season. Junior MB Lianna Sybeldon is collecting 1.83 kps and is currently second in the conference in blocks (1.72 bps). Another threat from the middle is junior MB Melanie Wade who is recording 1.40 kps. The Huskies run a 6-2 offense with setters junior Katy Beals (6.67 aps) and redshirt freshman Bailey Tanner (4.94 aps). Leading the Washington defense is junior libero Cassie Strickland who has 143 digs this season (3.25 dps).
THE MATCHUP: The Women of Troy own a 38-22 overall record in their series with the Huskies. Though USC is currently 15-13 when facing Washington in Seattle, the Huskies have won eight of the last nine times they have hosted the Trojans. Matches with Washington have traditionally been close, however, as USC has gone to five sets with the Huskies in seven of its last 13 encounters. UW beat the Trojans three times in 2013 including a season-ending five-set win at the Galen Center in the NCAA regional championship match.
HEAD COACH JIM McLAUGHLIN: In his 13th season at Washington, head coach Jim McLaughlin is 337-87 with a .795 winning percentage. He has guided the Huskies to 12 consecutive NCAA tournaments, four Final Four appearances, seven trips to the Elite Eight and a national title in 2005. In addition, McLaughlin has coached three National Players of the Year, was named the 2004 National Coach of the Year, and is a four-time Pac-10/12 Coach of the Year.
SCOUTING WASHINGTON STATE: The Cougars (9-5, 0-2 Pac-12) were swept by Washington and Stanford in the opening week of conference play and have been swept, 3-0, in four of their five losses. Leading Washington State in kills is sophomore OH Kyra Holt with 3.35 kps (10th in the Pac-12). The Cougars’ other threat from the pins is senior OH Jaicee Harris, who puts up 2.79 kps. WSU gets big contributions from its middle attack thanks to senior MB’s Chelsey Bettinson and Ver’Leea Hardaway, who each record 3.12 kps and 1.91 kps, respectively. Junior libero Kate Sommer has amassed 194 digs for the season (4.40 dps), and ranks third in the conference in digs. Leading the Cougars’ 5-1 offense is sophomore setter Haley MacDonald who dishes out 11.35 aps (fourth in the league).
THE MATCHUP: The Women of Troy own a 44-13 overall record in the all-time series with Washington State. USC is 17-11 when facing WSU in Pullman, Wash. In their last contest in the Palouse, the Cougars came back from a two-set deficit to beat USC, 21-19, in the fifth set, on Nov. 17, 2013. During the win, WSU snapped a 26-set losing streak to the Trojans. Despite its loss, USC is still 8-2 in its last 10 meetings with the Cougars.
HEAD COACH JEN GREENY: In her fourth season at Washington State, Jen Greeny is 52-59 with a .468 winning percentage. In 2013, she guided the Cougars to an 18-win season with five Pac-12 victories; the most for a WSU squad since 2009.
LET ME TAKE A #SELFIE: 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.
HI, MOM! I’M ON TV: The Trojans will appear on live television broadcasts in 21 of 30 regular-season matches this season. USC matches at the USC Classic and the Pac-12/Big Ten Showcase, and all but three of the Trojans’ conference matches will be carried by the Pac-12 Networks. USC’s regular-season finale at UCLA will be broadcast live on ESPNU. In addition, the Trojans appeared on the West Coast Conference’s digital network (TheW.tv) in the Community Bankers Volleyball Classic in Stockton, Calif., and on the new SEC Network’s digital platform when they played Kentucky in the Commonwealth Classic in Lexington, Ky.
LAST TIME OUT: USC opened Pac-12 play but was unable to scratch the win column as the Trojans suffered a 3-0 loss to crosstown rival No. 20 UCLA and a 3-1 setback to No. 19 Arizona State. Both matches were at Galen Center where USC has yet to win a match this season. The Women of Troy were edged in two of their sets against the Bruins by just two points including a 27-25 loss in the third following a valiant come-from-behind effort. USC stumbled against the Sun Devils who came out with nothing to lose and became just the fifth conference team to earn a win at the Galen Center over the Trojans. Previously, only Stanford, Washington, UCLA, and Oregon (once) had ever beaten the Trojans in their own gym. Junior OH Samantha Bricio had a season-high 22 kills (26.5 points) against the Devils and earned a pair of aces to draw her closer to the all-time career mark at USC of 170 held by Nancy Hillman. Bricio is also just a few aces away from jumping into second place all-time in the Pac-12.