USC Wraps Regular Season at Arizona and UCLA|
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Nov. 25, 2014
LOS ANGELES - The Women of Troy (14-14, 7-11 Pac-12) have their backs against the wall with just two matches remaining in the regular season. USC needs one more victory to qualify for selection into the NCAA tournament but must face a pair of ranked opponents on the road.
The Trojans take on No. 14 Arizona (22-8, 11-7) at McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz., on Wednesday (Nov. 26) at 6 p.m. MT (5 p.m. PT). USC then wraps the regular season with its second rivalry match with No. 17 UCLA (19-10, 10-8) at Pauley Pavilion on Friday (Nov. 28) at 8:30 p.m. PT in a match to be shown live on ESPNU. Sam Gore (play-by-play) and U.S. Women's National Team head coach Karch Kiraly (commentary) will call the action for the USC-UCLA broadcast.
The Women of Troy seek their 32nd bid into the NCAA tournament but would miss the postseason tourney for the first time in 24 years if they cannot secure victories this week. It is unlikely USC will host first- and second-round matches even if it is selected for 64-team field, which would break a run of 11 straight years as hosts to open the tourney. The Trojans have hosted first-round matches 20 times since 1992.
The road to the postseason has never been this tough for the tradition-laden Trojans' program. In fact, quite literally, USC finishes the season with three ranked opponents on the road; four matches in a span of eight days, which includes five days of travel. Twice, the Women of Troy will travel on the same day as one of their matches. While USC finished the home slate with a 4-8 mark (the lowest in nine years at the Galen Center), the Trojans had held a better road record all season until last week. After dropping two matches in Oregon, USC's road mark now stands at an even 5-5.
Despite the return of All-American outside hitters Samantha Bricio and Ebony Nwanebu, the Trojans' roster is still young with 11 freshmen and sophomores on the ticket. Sophomore setter Alice Pizzasegola sets the starting rotation for the Trojans and puts up 6.00 aps. Senior OH and setter Emily Young (2.54 aps, 1.11 kps) carries setting duties as she rotates through the front row. Young is also a viable hitting and blocking threat. With the help of senior setter Hayley Crone through the early part of the season, USC is hitting at a .246 clip (sixth in the Pac-12) through 28 matches with 13.64 kps.
Regardless of who is setting, Bricio is a favorite target. She leads the team and ranks sixth in the league with 4.25 kps. Her range out of the back row extends beyond the end line where she tacks on 0.74 service aces per set to rank first in the conference and second in the entire nation. Bricio ranks fourth in the Pac-12 for points (5.25 pps) and has racked up 77 service aces this season. With 205 aces, she became both USC's and the Pac-12's all-time career leader in aces this year.
A force on the right side, Nwanebu is averaging 3.09 kps (.224) this season and recorded back-to-back 20-kill matches against Oregon State (.513 hitting without an error) and California. Nwanebu started rotating through the back row mid-way through the season and has already logged four double-doubles. Fellow sophomore OH Elise Ruddins has started the last 11 matches and has helped the Trojans with 1.75 kps (1.94 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 2.15 kps (.179). Gillis also ranks fifth on the team with 1.88 dps. OH Brittany Abercrombie has appeared in 31 sets and hits .219 with 1.81 kps.
Defensively, the Trojans have gotten strong production from junior MB Alicia Ogoms who leads the team with 0.97 bps. Ogoms also delivers on the offensive end with 1.55 kps and a .359 hitting percentage which ranks fifth in the Pac-12. The Women of Troy can also go young in the middle with freshman Jordan Dunn who has posted 1.06 kps to go with a .366 hitting rate this season. Senior MB Hannah Schraer scores 1.07 kps (.317) and 0.65 bps for the Trojans. In the backcourt, sophomore libero Taylor Whittingham (4.86 dps) anchors the Trojan defense and leads the Pac-12 for digs.
SCOUTING ARIZONA: The 14th-ranked Wildcats (22-8) are 11-7 in the Pac-12 and are coming off a give-set victory over Washington State (Nov. 22). Arizona has won six of its last nine matches thanks to senior OH Madi Kingdon who powers the Wildcat offense with 5.23 kps (second in the Pac-12). Kingdon is also second in the league in points per set with 5.77 pps. Arizona's other impact pin-hitters are OH's Taylor Arizobal and Ashley Harris, each hitting 2.55 kps and 2.16 kps, respectively. The Cats gets their attack from the middle thanks to MB's McKenzie Jacobson (1.50 kps) and Halli Amaro (1.48 kps). Senior libero Ronni Lewis leads the defense with 4.24 dps (fifth in the Pac-12). Running the Wildcats' 5-1 offense is sophomore setter Penina Snuka with 1,079 assists for the season. Her 10.79 aps rank fifth in the conference.
USC-ARIZONA SERIES HISTORY: The Women of Troy own a 59-19 overall record in their series with the Wildcats. They are 22-13 all-time as visitors in Tucson. Due to the Pac-12's scheduling, the teams meet only once this season. In their last encounter, USC swept Arizona in three sets at the Galen Center (Nov. 22, 2013).
ARIZONA HEAD COACH DAVE RUBIO: In his 23rd year, Arizona head coach Dave Rubio is 438-255 with a .632 winning percentage. During his career, he has guided the Wildcats to 16 NCAA Tournament appearances, one trip to the Final Four, four Elite Eight appearances, and seven trips to the Sweet 16.
SCOUTING UCLA: The 17th-ranked Bruins (19-10) are 10-8 in the Pac-12. In Oregon over the weekend, UCLA dropped a 3-0 decision to Oregon, but bounced back to beat Oregon State, 3-1. Senior OH Karsta Lowe powers the Bruin offense and leads the nation with 5.96 kps. Lowe also ranks first in the country in points per set at 6.60 pps and was named Pac-12 Player of the Week for a fifth time this season. Freshman OH Reily Buechler is second for the Bruins in kills per set with 2.97 kps. Freshman OH Olga Strantzali is also making an impact from the pins with 2.52 kps. Both Lowe and Strantzali are in the conference's top 10 for service aces. Lowe has recorded 29 aces (fifth in the Pac-12), and Strantzali has collected 17 (ninth). UCLA's middle blockers Claire Felix and Zoe Nightingale are each hitting 1.90 kps and 1.35 kps, respectively. Sophomore libero Taylor Formico has 390 digs this season with 3.82 dps. Running the Bruins' 5-1 offense is senior setter Julie Consani who is second in the Pac-12 with 1,058 assists (11.50 aps).
USC-UCLA SERIES HISTORY: The Women of Troy own a 55-48 overall record in their series with the Bruins and are 20-21 as the road team. Under head coach Mick Haley, USC has won 19 of 28 meetings with UCLA, and is 6-3 in the last nine. In their last encounter on Sept. 23, the Trojans fell to the Bruins in a 3-0 loss.
UCLA HEAD COACH MIKE SEALY: In his fifth year, UCLA head coach Mike Sealy is 109-48 with a .694 winning percentage. In 2011, he guided the Bruins to a NCAA championship with a 30-6 record. Following his national title, Sealy was also named the AVCA Coach of the Year.
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 22 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 lost a season-high fourth straight match as it dropped back-to-back four-set road matches in Oregon. The Women of Troy split the first two sets in each meeting, but couldn't overcome the firepower of the two upstart teams. Junior OH Samantha Bricio logged her 14th and 15th double-doubles of the season (37th of her career) and led the team in kills and points in each outing. Sophomore OH Ebony Nwanebu put up her fourth double-double of the season with 13 kills and 12 digs against the Ducks while sophomore setter Alice Pizzasegola had her fourth-career double-double with 29 assists and 11 digs. Sophomore OH Elise Ruddins tallied a season-high 14 kills and was one dig shy of a double-double herself with nine digs against the Beavers. The loss to Oregon State snapped an 11-match winning streak and was the Beavers' second win in 34 meetings. It was also just the second time in series history that Oregon has swept the regular-season matches against USC (the other was in 1986).
RECORD REACHED: On Friday, Nov. 14, junior OH Samantha Bricio became the Pac-12's all-time career leader for service aces. She served three against California to give her 72 on the season and 200 in her career (now 77 and 205). Notably, she is the only Pac-12 player ever to serve 200 aces in a career as she passed UCLA's Daiva Tomkus who had 198 nearly three decades ago (1986-89). Bricio has reached the six-ace mark in four separate matches including an eight-ace outing against Utah (Oct. 11) that matched USC's single-match record. Bricio already owns USC's career record, the school record in a single season (85 in 2013), the second-most so far this season, and the ninth most (43) in 2012. Her 85 aces was third in Pac-12 single-season history.
SCHOLASTIC HONOR: Senior setter/outside hitter Emily Young was named to the 2014 Capital One CoSIDA All-Academic All-District 8 First Team last week. With her selection, she becomes eligible for selection as a CoSIDA Academic All-American. Young holds a 3.69 undergraduate grade point average and will complete a bachelor's degree in business administration from USC's prestigious Marshall School of Business in December. She has also begun coursework towards a master's degree in communication management from the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.