Top-Ranked Trojans Take Hot Streak Into Desert
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Oct. 16, 2013
LOS ANGELES - The top-ranked USC women's volleyball team (16-1, 6-0 Pac-12) takes a 10-match winning streak into the desert as the Women of Troy prepare to face tests against No. 22 Arizona State (13-5, 2-4) and Arizona (13-5, 3-3), this weekend. Both matches will be carried live on the Pac-12 Networks.
The Trojans are looking for a repeat of last weekend's road success in the Beaver State where they earned a pair of 3-0 victories, but it won't be easy. Since 2008, USC has found itself on the short end of a desert upset every year but 2011 when the Trojans won the Pac-12 title. The Wildcats upended USC in Tucson in 2008 and 2009, and the Sun Devils pulled out shockers in 2010 and 2012 at Wells Fargo Arena.
USC is 85-7 in all-time matches as the No. 1-ranked team and has faced both Arizona and Arizona State six times each with a 12-0 mark as the top-ranked team in the country.
The Trojans' 2006 squad opened league play with a 6-0 record but USC is in position to move to 7-0 which would be the best start to conference matches since the 2003 national champion Trojans went 18-0 to win the conference. If USC can win its next match, it will also equal the 17-1 start that the 2006 Trojans held. An 18-1 mark would give the Women of Troy the best record through 19 matches since that same 2003 squad went undefeated in 35 matches to win the NCAA title.
The Women of Troy lean on senior All-American libero Natalie Hagglund who leads the Pac-12 with 4.90 dps. She is just five digs shy of becoming the second player in program history to reach the 2,000 career dig plateau. Only USC's school-record holder Debora Seilhamer had more digs in her career with 2,071 from 2003-06.
Offensively, USC's weaponry is spread across its six different hitters. Sophomore OH Samantha Bricio carries the load as she puts up 3.22 kps and is the national leader for service aces (44) at 0.76 saps. Clocked at over 50 miles per hour, Bricio has had seven matches, this season, in which she has posted three service aces, or more, and ranks seventh in the Pac-12 at 4.35 points per set.
Freshman OH Ebony Nwanebu is third on the team with 3.16 kps and also ranks third with 0.84 blocks per set. Nwanebu has been nothing short of impressive and has caught the eye of the conference with four Pac-12 Freshman of the Week awards in six weeks of play. At the other outside position, senior OH Sara Shaw is recording 2.14 kps and is second on the team with 2.59 dps. Junior OH Emily Young has become a steady force for the Trojans with 1.60 kps and is a threat on second contact as a former setter.
Defensively, senior MB Alexis Olgard leads the team with 1.21 bps and is also an offensive threat with 2.09 kps with a .452 hitting percentage that ranks second in the conference and seventh in the country. Junior MB Hannah Schraer is just a shade behind with 1.18 bps and puts up 1.35 kps.
At the heart of the USC offense, setters Hayley Crone (6.24 aps) and Alice Pizzasegola (5.42 aps) run the show. Head coach Mick Haley recently reached the 1,100-win plateau as a women's collegiate head coach and broke the 1,200-win mark (including wins as a men's head coach) with USC's sweep of Oregon.
SCOUTING ARIZONA STATE: The No. 22-ranked Sun Devils (13-5, 2-4 Pac-12) are in the midst of a three-match losing streak. Starting with its only home defeat (a 3-0 loss to Stanford on Sept. 27), ASU has dropped four of its last five matches. Prior to that, the Devils had risen to No. 15 in the rankings following a 3-0 sweep of a second-ranked Texas squad. In fact, the Sun Devils had posted 3-0 wins in all 12 of its wins before the loss to the Cardinal. The only blemish on Arizona State's schedule was a 3-2 decision at the hands of a 14th-ranked Illinois squad. Thanks in large part to senior libero Stephanie Preach who averages 4.34 dps (sixth in the Pac-12) the Sun Devils lead the league with 15.78 digs per set. Preach also leads the team with 17 service aces, this season. Sophomore OH Macey Gardner leads the league with 4.74 kills per set and adds another 2.19 dps. Sophomore setter Bianca Arellano is fourth in the Pac-12 for assists (10.86 aps) and ranks second on the team with 2.95 dps. Arellano is also third on the team with 0.85 bps. Sophomore MB Whitney Follette leads the Devils with a .366 hitting percentage (1.79 kps) and is tops in blocks (1.16 bps). Freshman OH BreElle Bailey adds 2.76 kps and 0.71 bps for the Devils.
THE MATCHUP: The Trojans and the Sun Devils will meet for the 75th time. USC holds a 61-12-1 advantage in the all-time series, and is 8-2 in the last 10 meetings. The Trojans are 26-8 in Tempe but have been on the short end of upset victories by the Sun Devils in both 2010 and 2012. The last time the teams met, ASU took a 3-0 sweep at Wells Fargo Arena on Nov. 2, 2012.
ASU HEAD COACH JASON WATSON: Arizona State head coach Jason Watson is in his sixth season with the Sun Devils and has compiled an 81-94 overall record. In 2012, Watson led the Devils to their first 20-win season since 1993 and the team's first NCAA appearance since 2006.
LAST TIME OUT: The Trojans ran their winning streak into double digits as a 3-0 sweep of No. 22 Oregon netted USC its 10th straight victory. It was the 1,200th win in the overall career of head coach Mick Haley including a 97-32 mark with the men's team at Kellogg Community College. The Trojans posted a better hitting percentage than their opponent for the 17th time in as many matches and were buoyed by the defense of senior libero Natalie Hagglund who had 21 digs. Freshman OH Ebony Nwanebu led the offensive attack with 11 kills (.273) while junior MB Hannah Schraer put up eight blocks.
TAP THE APP: The USC women's volleyball program is the first of its kind to release a fully-functional interactive iPad application. The custom built app provides users an inside look at the 2013 Women of Troy and their quest for a seventh national title. The app connects fans and user to player bios, links for live in-match updates, and behind-the-scenes videos that showcase the team's progress through the season. Users can also easily take a look back through the rich history of one of the most elite volleyball programs in the country. It also includes a virtual tour that takes users into the Galen Center and across the USC campus. Download the app through iTunes, today.
HALEY HITS 1100/1200: Head coach Mick Haley recorded his 1,100th win as a women's collegiate head coach on Friday, Oct. 4, as the Trojans defeated Stanford, 3-0, at the Galen Center. He has 330 with USC, 522 with Texas, and 348 with Kellogg CC. He has also reached the 1,200th overall victory of his career including a 97-32 mark with the men's team at Kellogg CC.
A DIFFERENT KIND OF SWEEP: The Trojans went 3-0 in a different way on Oct. 7. USC players swept the Pac-12's weekly awards as senior MB Alexis Olgard was named Offensive Player of the Week, senior libero Natalie Hagglund was named Defensive Player of the Week, and OH Ebony Nwanebu was chosen for Freshman of the Week. It is Olgard's first such award, the fourth of Hagglund's career, and Nwanebu's third. Coincidentally, one year ago (Oct. 8, 2012), USC also swept the conference awards as OH Samantha Bricio earned offensive and freshman awards and Hagglund nabbed the defensive award.
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.
LIKE A BROKEN RECORD: Senior libero Natalie Hagglund is poised to become the program's all-time leader in career digs and the second player ever to reach the 2,000-dig plateau. She has 1,995, and currently sits in second place behind just Debora Seilhamer who logged 2,071 in her prolific career. Hagglund moved into the Pac-12's top 10 career leaders in digs and is ranked ninth. Her 4.73 career dps rank second in program history. Hagglund owns three of the top 10 single-season school records for digs: third (613 in 2012), fourth (596 in 2011), and ninth (497 in 2010 as a freshman). A season ago, Samantha Bricio set the ninth-best single-season mark for kills with 491 and took the second-most attempts in a single season at USC (1,325). Bricio's 43 service aces also tied for seventh most in a single season and her 567.0 points ranks seventh in a season for Troy. Setter Hayley Crone enjoyed the program's eighth-best single year with 1,337 assists while middle blocker Alexis Olgard recorded the ninth-best single-season hitting percentage at .394.
ACE IN THE HOLE: Sophomore OH Samantha Bricio leads the NCAA in service aces with a remarkable 0.76 saps average. After leading the conference (43, 0.36 saps) in 2012, she has already surpassed her freshman mark with 44 in 2013. The 44 aces in a single season is seventh most in school history. USC's single-season record for aces is 59 shared by April Ross (2003) and Nancy Hillman (1988). Ross also holds the Trojan record for highest single-season average with 0.52 saps in 2003, but that mark is in jeopardy as Bricio continues to roll, this season. The Pac-12 record for single-season average is 0.80 saps held by Arizona's Kiyomi Morino (1987). In just two years, Bricio is also on the verge of breaking into the Trojan top 10 for career aces. Christina Brigman ranks 10th with 97 from 1987-89 but Bricio already has 87 in her career.