Trojans to Honor Seniors in Regular-Season Finale With Colorado
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Nov. 28, 2013
LOS ANGELES - The Women of Troy (25-5, 15-4 Pac-12) will honor seniors Natalie Hagglund, Alexis Olgard, and Sara Shaw when they wrap up the regular-season schedule with a Friday-afternoon bout (Nov. 29) at 2 p.m. PT against Colorado (17-12, 9-10) at the Galen Center.
Since 2009, USC is 18-1 through the last four matches of the regular season and finished as national semifinalists in 2010 and '11. Under head coach Mick Haley, the Trojans have produced equal or better records in the back half of the conference schedule in 11 of his 12 completed years.
A win over the Buffaloes would assure USC of no worse than third place in the final Pac-12 standings and give the Trojans an 8-2 mark through the back half of the league schedule. The only time a Haley-led USC squad didn't do better on its second time through the conference was in 2002 when it was 9-0 on the front nine and 8-1 through the back nine. But that team went on to win the first of back-to-back NCAA championships.
Building momentum down the final stretch is paramount for the Trojans who hosted first and second round NCAA 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 2,274) 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 568 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 3.43 kps and leads the country in service aces (72) 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 72 and counting.
Freshman OH Ebony Nwanebu is second on the team with 3.37 kps (.334) and also ranks third with 0.86 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 1.99 kps and is second on the team with 2.93 dps. Shaw is just the 16th player in program history to record 1,000 digs and is only the 11th player at USC ever to post 1,000 digs and 800 career kills.
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 (2.42 kps) and had a match with 24 kills earlier this season.
Defensively, senior MB Alexis Olgard leads the team with 1.28 bps and cannot be overlooked on the offensive side of the net as she logs 2.23 kps and is second in the league with a .432 hitting percentage. Junior MB Hannah Schraer is just a shade behind with 1.04 bps and puts up 1.42 kps. At the heart of the USC offense, setters Hayley Crone (6.51 aps) and Alice Pizzasegola (5.67 aps) run the show and have the Trojans hitting .280 (2nd in the Pac-12) this season.
SCOUTING COLORADO: The Buffaloes (17-12, 9-10 Pac-12) enter the final match of the regular season with wins in two of their last three matches. Colorado's win over Oregon State (Nov. 22) snapped a five-match skid for a CU team that had struggled to maintain its momentum following a four-match winning streak from Oct. 20 through Nov. 1. The Buffs went 8-1 in non-conference matches before they shocked an 11th-ranked UCLA team in Boulder with a five-set win. The following week, Colorado put the Pac-12 on notice when it took out top-ranked Washington in a four-set decision at home. The Buffaloes also own a win over a 25th-ranked Arizona squad. Junior OH Taylor Simpson leads the Buffaloes with 3.56 kps, which ranks eighth in the Pac-12. Sophomore OH Alexis Austin is second on the team with 2.76 kps while junior MB Kelsey English holds the team's highest hitting percentage (.364) which ranks sixth in the league. English is also third in the conference for service aces (0.36 saps). Sophomore setter Nicole Edelman (10.25 aps) ranks fifth in the Pac-12 and has the Buffs hitting at a .225 clip. Edelman is also a threat to attack with 77 kills and a .398 hitting rate this season. Freshman libero Cierra Simpson digs at a 3.23 dps clip and is trailed by sister Taylor who puts up 2.38 dps. Senior MB Nikki Lindow is eighth in the Pac-12 with 1.22 blocks per set.
THE MATCHUP: The Women of Troy and the Buffaloes will meet for the eighth time. USC owns a 7-0 mark in the all-time series and has not lost a set to Colorado in the last four matches (2011-12) since the Buffaloes 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.
COLORADO HEAD COACH LIZ KRITZA: Buffalo head coach Liz Kritza is in her fifth year with the program and holds a 50-96 overall record with a 14-47 mark in Pac-12 matches (two seasons). Kritza has a 126-134 career record which includes four seasons at Tulane where she was twice named the AVCA Midwest Region Coach of the Year.