USC and UCLA Clash in Second Crosstown Showdown
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Nov. 27, 2013
LOS ANGELES - The seventh-ranked USC women’s volleyball team (24-5, 14-4 Pac-12) heads down the freeway to face crosstown rival UCLA (15-13, 6-12) on Wednesday, Nov. 27, at 7 p.m. PT. The Trojans and the Bruins will play on the Pac-12 Networks with Kevin Barnett and Holly McPeak on the broadcast.
The last time these two teams met, USC handed an 11th-ranked UCLA just its second loss of the season in a four-set decision at the Galen Center. That defeat was the first of a five-match skid for the Bruins who have since fallen out of the rankings. The last time UCLA finished with a sub-.500 conference record was in 1982, but the crosstown rivalry has always brought out the best in both teams. The Bruins are still playing for a spot in the NCAA tournament and must get a win over USC to avoid missing the tournament for the first time since 1996.
Since 2009, the Women of Troy are 17-1 in the last four matches of the regular season and finished as national semifinalists in 2010 and ’11. The only blemish on that 17-1 record came at the hands of UCLA in the final regular-season match of 2012. Under head coach Mick Haley, the Trojans have beaten the Bruins in 18 of 26 meetings and USC has won five of the last seven head-to-heads with UCLA but is 18-20 all-time in Westwood. The Trojans are just 2-5 in their last seven trips to Pauley Pavilion since winning five straight there from 2001-05.
Building momentum down the final stretch is paramount for the Trojans who hosted first and second round matches for the 10th straight year in 2012 and advanced to the Austin Regional Championship match before falling to eventual champion Texas. It was USC’s ninth regional final appearance since 1998. This year, the Trojans seek the program’s 23rd consecutive berth in the NCAA tournament (31st overall) and are slated to host the Los Angeles Regional Championship.
The Trojans lean on senior libero Natalie Hagglund who leads the Pac-12 with 5.41 dps (15th in the NCAA). She is USC’s career leader in digs (now with 2,258) and moved into third place in Pac-12 history. Hagglund is only the second Trojan ever to record three seasons with at least 500 digs (Debora Seilhamer) and now owns four of USC’s top 10 single-season digs records including her 552 this season, which ranks sixth. Hagglund’s accomplishments have made her one of 10 finalists for the Senior CLASS Award.
Offensively, USC’s weaponry is spread evenly across its six hitters. Sophomore OH Samantha Bricio carries part of the load with 3.42 kps and leads the country in service aces (70) at 0.69 saps. Clocked at over 50 miles per hour, Bricio has had 11 matches, this season, in which she has posted three service aces, or more, and ranks eighth in the Pac-12 at 4.45 points per set. Her five-ace performance at Cal made her the single-season record holder at USC with 70 and counting.
Freshman OH Ebony Nwanebu is second on the team with 3.35 kps (.330) and also ranks third with 0.88 blocks per set. Nwanebu has been nothing short of impressive and has caught the eye of the conference with a record-tying five Pac-12 Freshman of the Week awards. At the other outside position, senior OH Sara Shaw is recording 2.03 kps and is second on the team with 2.94 dps. Junior OH Emily Young has become a steady force for the Trojans with 1.43 kps and is a threat on second contact as a former setter. Freshman OH Elise Ruddins has also proven to be a viable offensive option for the Trojans (2.47 kps) and had a match with 24 kills earlier this season.
Defensively, senior MB Alexis Olgard leads the team with 1.29 bps and cannot be overlooked on the offensive side of the net as she logs 2.22 kps and is second in the league with a .432 hitting percentage. Junior MB Hannah Schraer is just a shade behind with 1.03 bps and puts up 1.43 kps. At the heart of the USC offense, setters Hayley Crone (6.48 aps) and Alice Pizzasegola (5.74 aps) run the show and have the Trojans hitting .277 (3rd in the Pac-12) this season.
LAST TIME OUT: The Trojans bounced back from a pair of road losses to claim two 3-0 victories on their home court over Arizona and Arizona State. USC’s win over the Wildcats avenged an earlier 3-0 loss to Arizona in the desert. The Trojans received well-balanced output on both the offensive and defensive side of the net in both matches and were led by freshman hitters in each match. Against Arizona, Ebony Nwanebu had 16 kills (0e, 37att) with a .432 hitting percentage and led the team with six blocks (one solo). Two days later, Elise Ruddins led the way with 14 kills (2e, 26att, .462). Senior libero Natalie Hagglund posted 7.00 dps during the two matches with 19 against the Cats and 23 against the Sun Devils.
SCOUTING UCLA: The Bruins (15-13, 6-12 Pac-12) have not won more than one match at a time since a loss to the Trojans on Sept. 25 snapped a four-match winning streak. UCLA started the year with a 9-1 mark in non-conference matches and dropped just one decision to a ninth-ranked Hawai’i squad on the islands. Their first loss to USC sent the Bruins on a five-match losing streak that dropped UCLA out of the national rankings. The last time UCLA finished with a sub-.500 conference record was in 1982, but the Bruins are still playing for a spot in the NCAA tournament and must get a win over USC to avoid missing the tournament for the first time since 1996. UCLA is also in the hunt to extend a streak of 14 straight years with at least 20 victories. Junior OH Karsta Lowe ranks fourth in the Pac-12 for kills (4.31 kps) and is sixth in points (4.70 pps). Senior middle Mariana Aquino is the league’s fourth-leading attacker with a .379 hitting percentage. Defensively, sophomore libero Karly Drolson is 10th in the Pac-12 with 3.63 dps while junior setter Megan Moenoa runs the offense and ranks ninth in the league with 8.97 aps. Senior OH Kelly Reeves puts up 2.81 kps and is second on the team with 3.16 dps. Sophomore OH Maddy Klineman (2.23 kps) and junior MB Zoe Nightingale (1.14 kps) also provide scoring. Nightingale is the team’s leading blocker at 1.11 bps.
THE MATCHUP: The Women of Troy own a 53-46 overall record in the series and are 18-20 in Westwood. Under head coach Mick Haley, USC has won 18 of 26 meetings with UCLA. More recently, the Trojans have won five of the last seven meetings with the Bruins, but despite that tilt, the teams are split, 5-5, in the last 10 meetings and also split the regular-season series in both 2011 and 2012.
UCLA HEAD COACH MIKE SEALY: In his fourth year, Bruins head coach Mike Sealy is 90-36 overall with a .714 winning percentage. In just his second season (2011), Sealy guided UCLA to its fourth NCAA title and seventh national championship. The Bruins finished with a 30-6 overall record and he was named the AVCA National Coach of the Year.
GALEN CENTER HOSTS NCAA REGIONAL: The University of Southern California and Galen Center will play host to the 2013 NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Tournament’s Los Angeles Regional Championship on Dec. 13-14 (Friday-Saturday). One team out of the region will secure one of four highly coveted spots in the national semifinals, which will be held at Key Arena (Dec. 19-21) in Seattle, Wash., hosted by the University of Washington and the Seattle Sports Commission. Since it opened in 2006, the Galen Center has hosted many high-profile sporting events including the 2012 NCAA Men’s Volleyball Championship and the 2007 NCAA Women’s Basketball First and Second Rounds. The 10,258-seat arena has also hosted the Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Tournament, the MPSF Men’s Volleyball Championship, and the first and second rounds of the NCAA Women’s Volleyball Championships; the latter in each of the last seven years. Outside of sports, the venue is also the site of entertainment events such as the Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice Awards, Microsoft’s E3, the League of Legends Championships, and popular reality talent show The X-Factor.
TOP OF THE CLASS: Senior libero Natalie Hagglund, junior MB Hannah Schraer, and junior OH Emily Young each received 2013 Pac-12 Academic honorable mention. It is Hagglund’s third honorable mention nod, and the second for Young. Schraer received her first such award. Hagglund is on track to graduate from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and holds a 3.59 GPA in communications. Young has the team’s highest GPA at 3.66 and is majoring in business administration. Schraer is a policy, planning, and development major with a 3.13 GPA.
WELCOME TO THE FAMILY: USC announced that it had signed four of the top prep volleyball players in the nation to the 2014 incoming freshman class on Wednesday (Nov. 20). The Trojans have consistently produced some of the top recruiting classes in the country and fared no different when it received commitments from Brittany Abercrombie (Carlsbad, Calif. | La Costa Canyon HS), Jordan Dunn (Corona, Calif. | Corona HS), Lauryn Gillis (New Castle, Ind. | New Castle HS), and Taylor Wheatley (Villa Park, Calif. | Orange Lutheran HS). According to PrepVolleyball, Gillis is rated the No. 4 Senior Ace, Abercrombie is ranked No. 7, and Wheatley is ranked No. 25. Abercrombie and Gillis are each Under Armour Girls High School All-Americans.
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.