No. 4 USC Meets No. 7 UCLA in Regular-Season Finale
Nov. 22, 2012
LOS ANGELES - With one match left on the schedule, the fourth-ranked Trojans can secure at least a share of second place in the Pac-12 and extend its winning streak to seven matches with the NCAA tournament right around the corner.
That might be easier said than done as a seventh-ranked UCLA squad stands in USC's way for a Friday-evening regular-season finale. The last time the two teams met, a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup went the Trojans' way in an upset at Galen Center. This time, the Women of Troy can spring another upset on the Bruins' senior night at the newly renovated Pauley Pavilion. Prior to this week, UCLA had lost just four times and had not fallen in back-to-back matches, all season. Entering Friday's rivalry bout with a two-match losing streak, the Bruins will do all they can to avoid falling three times in a row prior to the NCAA tournament.
The Trojans have won four of the last five meetings with the Bruins and can log the 11th regular-season series sweep of UCLA in program history with a win in Westwood.
Freshman outside hitter Samantha Bricio took home her fifth Pac-12 Freshman of the Week award this week and ranks fourth in the conference for kills (4.11 kps). Senior opposite hitter Katie Fuller (3.18 kps) and junior outside Sara Shaw (2.94 kps) shore up the offense, which hits .259 on the season, under the guidance of sophomore setter Hayley Crone (10.95 aps).
SCOUTING NO. 7 UCLA: The Bruins had won nine of 10 matches before they fell to then-No. 1 Stanford in four sets on Nov. 16. UCLA has lost six matches, this season; none back-to-back. The Bruins are the most efficient team in the Pac-12 with a .302 hitting percentage and rank second in kills (14.90 kps) and assists (13.92 aps). Senior outside Tabi Love is the Bruins' go-to weapon. She ranks second in the league in kills (4.54 kps) and points (4.94 pps). Senior opposite Rachael Kidder is no slouch either. She ranks seventh in the Pac-12 in kills (4.02 kps) and points (4.49 pps). Sophomore middle Zoe Nightingale hits .376 (ranked fourth) and is the league's fifth-leading blocker at 1.31 bps. Senior libero Bojana Todorovic is eighth in the league for digs with 3.96 dps. The last time the Trojans and Bruins met, it was a matchup of the top two ranked teams in the country. Second-ranked USC earned a four-set win (28-26, 25-20, 24-26, 25-17) at the Galen Center on Sept. 19. The Trojans own the series edge, 53-45, and are an even 19-19 all-time as the visiting team.
MATCH RECAP (OREGON STATE): The Trojans made short work of a short trip to Corvallis, Ore., as they took out Oregon State in three sets, 25-10, 25-14, 25-20, at Gill Coliseum. USC held the Beavers to a .000 hitting percentage through the first two sets but Oregon State came to life in the third and held a lead for much of the way until the Trojans pushed back and closed out a 25-20 win for a 3-0 sweep. It was USC's sixth straight win to log the second-longest streak of the season. The Trojan sweep extended USC's set streak to 23 straight against Oregon State. Head coach Mick Haley recorded his 311th win with the program to become the winningest coach in USC history. Legendary coach Chuck Erbe previously held the record for most wins with 310 through 12 seasons.
PERENIAL POSTSEASON PARTY GOERS: This December, USC seeks its 35th postseason appearance since the program's inception in 1976. The Women of Troy have won six national championships (1976, 1977, 1980, 1981, 2002 and 2003) and have appeared in back-to-back national semifinal matches; three times in the last five years, and seven times in the last 12 seasons. 2010-11 marked the first back-to-back final four appearances for the Trojans since they made three straight appearances from 2002-04. It will be USC's 22nd consecutive selection to the NCAA Tournament where it is 66-26 (.717) overall. The Trojans are 112-33 (.772) overall in postseason play.
CLASSROOM WARRIORS: Four Trojans were recently named to the Pac-12's All-Academic team as honorable mentions. Junior libero Natalie Hagglund headlined the group one week after she was selected for Capital One CoSIDA Academic All-District 8 first-team honors. Hagglund is a communications major with a 3.44 grade-point average. She was joined by seniors Natasa Siljkovic and Erin Yoder, and sophomore Emily Young. Siljkovic is a middle blocker who will graduate with a degree in international relations. Yoder--a service and defensive specialist holds a 3.50 GPA in human performance. A setter/opposite hitter, Young is majoring in business administration with a 3.47 grade-point average.
COMING TROJAN ATTRACTIONS: USC signed a pair of highly-touted top 10 recruits to its 2013 freshman class during the early signing period. Ebony Nwanebu (Lovejoy HS | Lucas, Texas) and Elise Ruddins (Aliso Niguel HS | Laguna Niguel, Calif.) will join the Women of Troy in the fall of 2013. Ruddins is a 6-3 middle blocker who played for Laguna Beach Volleyball Club and prepped at Aliso Niguel High School. She was rated No. 2 among high school recruits as PrepVolleyball.com's No. 2 Senior Ace. She is the niece of USC All-American setter Kim Ruddins (1981-85), a two-time Olympian (1984, '88) whose No. 3 jersey hangs in the rafters of the Galen Center. Nwanebu is a 6-4 outside hitter who was named to the Under Armour All-American first team and played at Texas Advantage Volleyball Club. She is PrepVolleyball.com's No. 7 Senior Ace and has twice been named to the LoneStarVolleyball.com All-Texas first team.
900: USC'S 3-0 win over Colorado (Oct. 21), was the program's 900th all-time victory. The Women of Troy are now 908-306-4 in 36 seasons. Head coach Mick Haley has been on USC's bench for its 600th, 700th, 800th, and now 900th wins.
ALL ABOUT THE BENJAMINS: Three Benjamins to be exact. Head coach Mick Haley earned his 300th win at USC when the Trojans defeated Arizona State in four sets on Oct. 7. A month later, a win over Oregon State on Nov. 20 gave Haley his 311th victory with the Trojans and made him the winningest coach in program history. He is 311-69 in 12 seasons with USC for a .818 winning percentage. The OSU win propelled him ahead of Chuck Erbe who logged a 310-121-3 record in 12 seasons as USC's head coach from 1976-77 and 1979-88. Haley's 300th win with Troy gave him at least 300 wins at three different schools: Kellogg Community College, Texas, and USC. In nine of his 11 completed seasons, Haley has guided the team to at least 20 wins and has never missed the NCAA tournament during his time on campus.
RECORD BOOK THREATS: Several Trojans are poised to etch their names into the USC record books, this season. Among single-season performances, junior libero Natalie Hagglund has already moved into fifth place with 537 digs, this season. She also owns the third-best mark with 596 in 2011 and the ninth-best total with 497 in 2010. Freshman outside hitter Samantha Bricio is seemingly on the verge of breaking into every offensive top 10 list including kills (432), attacks (1,156), service aces (36), and points (494.0). On the career ladders, Hagglund has taken over the No. 3 all-time spot from Nancy Hillman and currently has 1,630 career digs. Senior opposite hitter Katie Fuller entered the career-points leader list with her performances against Stanford and Cal as she passed Katie Olsovsky. Fuller has 1,043.5 career points.