USC Heads to Mountains for Pivotal Pac-12 Matches|
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Nov. 4, 2014
LOS ANGELES - The No. 19-ranked USC women's volleyball team (13-9, 6-6 Pac-12) will tap the Rocky Mountains for a pair of pivotal league matches this weekend. The Women of Troy must take on Utah (12-11, 2-10) on Friday, Nov. 7, at 6 p.m. MT (5 p.m. PT) at the Jon Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City before a Sunday-morning clash (Nov. 9) at noon MT (11 a.m. PT) with a surging No. 21-ranked Colorado squad (15-9, 7-5) at the Coors Events Center in Boulder, Colo.
Both matches will be carried live regionally on the Pac-12 Networks. Anne Marie Anderson and Mike Dodd will call the match at Utah and Rich Burk and Elizabeth Moreau will call the USC-Colorado matchup.
As the season's end nears, the Trojans hope to build some momentum and secure a bid for the NCAA tournament, but the month of November is not without its challenges. USC must play six of its final eight regular-season matches on the road; a stretch that includes visits to five cities in four different states.
The opposition won't see the same USC they saw in the first half of league matches. The Women of Troy, who have employed 14 different starting lineups in 22 matches, have moved from a 6-2 system to a 5-1 hybrid and have made significant changes in their defensive schemes. The margin for error in the Pac-12 is razor thin this season as the difference between a two-win weekend and a two-loss weekend could be the difference between third place and ninth place in the league standings.
In five of the last seven seasons, head coach Mick Haley has made adjustments in the second half of the Pac-12 schedule to help his Trojans post better second-half records. Over the course of his 13 completed seasons at USC, his team has logged at least the same record in both halves of league matches seven times.
While Haley puts a premium on in-season improvements, only once has one of his Trojan squads fared worse in the second part of league matches. That, however, was in 2002 when USC went on to win the first of two back-to-back NCAA titles. USC has only finished with a .500 mark in conference matches once under Haley (9-9 in 2008) but never below. In fact, none of Haley's teams (including those that he coached at Texas) have ever finished below .500 in conference play.
Despite the return of All-American outside hitters Samantha Bricio and Ebony Nwanebu, the Trojan roster is chock full of inexperience with 11 freshmen and sophomores on the ticket. Sophomore setter Alice Pizzasegola sets the starting rotation for the Trojans and puts up 5.84 aps. Senior OH and setter Emily Young (1.84 aps, 1.30 kps) carries setting duties as she rotates through the front row. With the help of senior setter Hayley Crone through the early part of the season, USC is hitting at a .250 clip (sixth in the Pac-12) through 22 matches with 13.70 kps (6th).
Regardless of who is setting, Bricio is a favorite target. She leads the team and ranks seventh in the league with 4.05 kps. Her range out of the back row extends beyond the end line where she tacks on 0.79 service aces per set to rank first in the conference and second in the entire nation. Bricio ranks fifth in the Pac-12 for points (5.12 pps) and has racked up 65 service aces this season. With 193 aces, she has already become USC's all-time career leader in aces and ranks second in Pac-12 history.
A force on the right side, Nwanebu is averaging 3.01 kps (.225) this season and recorded back-to-back 20-kill matches against Oregon State (.513 hitting without an error) and California. Nwanebu has also begun rotating through the back row and has already picked up her first two career double-doubles. Fellow sophomore OH Elise Ruddins has returned to form and has started the last five matches to help the Trojans with 1.54 kps (1.88 dps).
Off the bench, a pair of freshmen outside hitters played major roles for the Trojans' rotation early on and could help load the court with players that can score at any time. OH Lauryn Gillis started USC's first 17 matches and collects 2.25 kps (.179). Gillis also ranks fourth on the team with 1.97 dps. OH Brittany Abercrombie has appeared in 30 sets and hits .231 with 1.87 kps.
Defensively, the Trojans have gotten strong production from junior MB Alicia Ogoms who leads the team with 0.99 bps. Ogoms also delivers on the offensive end with 1.53 kps and a .349 hitting percentage which ranks sixth in the Pac-12. The Women of Troy can also go young in the middle with freshman Jordan Dunn who has posted 1.12 kps to go with a .400 hitting rate this season. Senior MB Hannah Schraer scores 1.13 kps (.343) and 0.67 bps for the Trojans. In the backcourt, sophomore libero Taylor Whittingham (4.79 dps) anchors the Trojan defense and leads the Pac-12 for digs.
SCOUTING UTAH: The Utes (12-11) hold a 2-10 mark in Pac-12 matches. Over the weekend, Utah fell to both Arizona and Arizona State on the road. Senior OH Chelsey Schofield leads the Utes in kills with 3.09 kps. The Utes' other threats from the pins are senior RS Shelby Dalton who is recording 2.75 kps, and freshman OH Eliza Katao who earns 1.98 kps. Utah gets contributions from its middle attack thanks to senior MB Bailey Bateman and freshman MB/OH Carly Trueman, who each collect 1.73 kps and 1.54 kps, respectively. Bateman ranks seventh in the conference in blocks, with 1.15 bps. Senior libero Lea Adolph leads the Utes' defense with 2.99 dps. Utah runs a 6-2 offense with setters senior Kalee Kirby (5.87 aps) and junior Kendall Cygan (4.97 aps).
USC-UTAH SERIES HISTORY: The Women of Troy own a 13-1 overall record in their series with the Utes. USC has won the last 10 in a row over Utah and are 5-0 against the Utes in Salt Lake City. The Trojans claimed a four-set win over the Utes when they visited Galen Center on Oct. 11.
HEAD COACH BETH LAUNIERE: In her 24th season as head coach of the Utes, Beth Launiere is 483-301 with a .616 winning percentage. She is a three-time AVCA West Region Coach of the Year recipient, and a three-time Mountain West Conference Coach of the Year.
SCOUTING COLORADO: The Buffaloes (15-9) are 7-5 in the Pac-12. Last week, Colorado earned road victories over Arizona in four sets and Arizona State in five sets. The wins helped push the Buffs into the AVCA's Top 25 poll for the first time this season. Powering the Colorado offense is senior OH Taylor Simpson. She leads her team with 4.56 kps (third in the Pac-12). Simpson is also is fourth in the conference in points at 5.13 pps. Other contributing pin hitters include junior OH Alexis Austin and sophomore OH/RS Neira Ortiz Ruiz, with 2.89 kps and 2.08 kps, respectively. Sophomore MB/RS Joslyn Hayes is collecting 2.20 kps, while freshman MB Anna Pfefferle is recording 1.33 kps. Pfefferle is currently sixth in conference in blocks, collecting 1.16 bps. Colorado runs a 6-2 offense with setters junior Nicole Edelman (7.48 aps) and freshman Gabby Simpson (5.14 aps). Edelman is eighth in the conference in assists. Leading the Buffs' defense is Cierra Simpson who has 368 digs this season (3.96 dps) and ranks eighth in the Pac-12 in digs, and seventh in service aces (0.28 saps).
USC-COLORADO SERIES HISTORY: The Women of Troy own a 9-0 overall record all-time against Colorado. USC has not lost a set to the Buffaloes in the last six matches (2011-14) since CU joined the Pac-12 Conference. Previously, the Trojans claimed a 3-0 win in 1988, a four-set win in 1992, and were pushed to five sets in 1997. The Trojans are 3-0 against Colorado when in Boulder, Colo., and defeated the Buffs in a sweep on Oct. 10 at Galen Center.
HEAD COACH LIZ KRITZA: Colorado head coach Liz Kritza is in her fifth season with the program. She holds a 66-107 overall record with the Buffaloes. Kritza has a career record of 142-146 (.491), which includes four seasons at Tulane where she was named the AVCA Midwest Region Coach of the Year in 2007 and 2008.
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 split home matches against a second-ranked and undefeated Washington and Washington State. The Huskies needed every last point to edge the Trojans in a close 26-24, 26-24, 25-23 win that ended on a service ace that had to roll off the tape to score. The Women of Troy were unfazed and came back to defeat the Cougars in four sets, 26-24, 20-25, 25-21, 25-17. Three players recorded double-doubles in USC's win over WSU including the first of her career for sophomore OH Elise Ruddins who finished with 11 kills and 13 digs. Sophomore setter Alice Pizzasegola dished out 28 assists and had 10 digs for the second double-double of her season while junior OH Samantha Bricio knocked down 19 kills to go with 10 digs for the 12th double-double this year (34th of her career). Sophomore libero Taylor Whittingham had her fourth straight match with 20 digs or more (20 total); her 12th straight in double digits and her 18th in double digits this year.