Trojans Open NCAA Run Against Coastal Carolina|
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Dec. 3, 2014
2014 NCAA DI Women's Volleyball Championship
Match #32 - Second Round (If Necessary)
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - The Women of Troy (15-15, 8-12 Pac-12) begin their run in the 2014 NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball Championship with a first-round matchup against Big South Champion Coastal Carolina (25-6) at 4:30 p.m. ET on Friday, Dec. 5, at Carmichael Arena on the campus of first- and second-round host North Carolina. The Tar Heels (26-2) were the champions of the Atlantic Coast Conference and hold the 64-team bracket's seventh seed. They will face Mid Eastern Atlantic Conference champion Hampton (21-10) in the other first-round match.
USC makes its 24th consecutive appearance in the tournament (32nd overall). The Trojans were in danger of missing the tournament field for the first time since 1990, but were buoyed by a strong RPI (ratings percentage index) ranking. USC will play in the NCAA's Minneapolis Regional and can advance to the second round for the 24th straight time with a win over the Chanticleers. The second-round match is set for 6 p.m. ET on Saturday, Dec. 6.
Seeded teams in the region are No. 2 Texas, No. 10 Oregon, and No. 15 Colorado State. The top four seeds in the 2014 tournament include No. 1 Stanford (Ames Regional), No. 2 Texas (Minneapolis Regional), No. 3 Washington (Seattle Regional), and No. 4 Wisconsin (Louisville Regional). USC's trip to Chapel Hill marks the first time in 12 years that the Trojans will not host first- and second-round matches at home. The Women of Troy have begun their tournament run at home 20 times since 1992.
The Women of Troy own a 118-35 (.771) all-time postseason record and are 72-28 (.720) in the NCAA tournament. USC has won six national championships including the first-ever NCAA title awarded in 1981. The Women of Troy also won back-to-back crowns in 2002 and 2003. USC holds three AIAW titles (1976, '77, '80). Last year, the Trojans hosted and advanced the Los Angeles Regional championship match to mark the 10th time since the NCAA expanded to a field of 64 teams in 1998 that USC has gone at least that far.
The Trojans are quite familiar with the field of 64. 22 of USC's 30 regular-season matches were against foes that advanced to the NCAA tournament including six of 10 non-conference opponents. The Trojans' matchup against Coastal Carolina is the third in program history against a team from the Big South in its current alignment. USC owns 3-0 victories over Liberty (2001) and over Radford (1993), each also in first-round NCAA tournament matches.
USC will play just its third match in the state of North Carolina. The last time the Trojans took the court in the Tar Heel State was in 2001 for the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament hosted by Duke in Durham, N.C. The Trojans won each of those matches in three-set sweeps: one over Liberty and one over the Blue Devils. The Women of Troy are 6-0 all-time against teams from the state of North Carolina including a 2-0 mark against UNC, 3-0 over Duke, and 1-0 against Wake Forest.
Despite the return of All-American outside hitters Samantha Bricio and Ebony Nwanebu, the Trojans field a young roster with 11 freshmen and sophomores on the ticket. Sophomore setter Alice Pizzasegola sets the starting rotation for the Trojans and puts up 6.09 aps. Senior OH and setter Emily Young (2.63 aps, 1.10 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 .249 clip (fifth in the Pac-12) with 13.63 kps.
Regardless of who is setting, Bricio is a favorite target. She leads the team and ranks sixth in the league with 4.27 kps. Her range out of the back row extends beyond the end line where she tacks on 0.69 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 (5.23 pps) and has racked up 78 service aces this season. With 206 aces, she became both USC's and the Pac-12's all-time career leader in aces.
A force on the right side, Nwanebu is averaging 3.04 kps (.222) 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 five double-doubles. Fellow sophomore OH Elise Ruddins started the last 13 matches of the regular season and has helped the Trojans with 1.79 kps (1.74 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 0.99 bps. Ogoms also delivers on the offensive end with 1.61 kps and a .370 hitting percentage which ranks fourth 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 (.323) and 0.64 bps for the Trojans. In the backcourt, sophomore libero Taylor Whittingham (4.94 dps) anchors the Trojan defense and leads the Pac-12 for digs.
SCOUTING COASTAL CAROLINA: Coastal Carolina (25-6) won the Big South Conference and will make its fourth NCAA tournament appearance. The Chanticleers were 11-3 in conference play and defeated top-seeded Radford to claim the league's automatic NCAA berth. This will be the first meeting between the Women of Troy and the Chanticleers. The last time Coastal Carolina made an appearance in the NCAA tournament was in 2009, where it fell to No. 7 Nebraska in three sets.
Third-year head coach Jozsef Forman led CCU to its most successful season since 2009. Behind the Chanticleer offense is freshman OH Leah Hardeman who was named the Big South Freshman of the Year and the conference's Player of the Year, only the second student-athlete in league history to earn both titles. Hardeman leads CCU with 4.03 kps and is fourth among all Division I freshmen in kills per set, and third in points per set. At the other pin, junior OH Gabriella Horvath is recording 1.88 kps. Junior opposite Lian Bernett collects 1.93 kps. Coastal Carolina gets its middle attack from first-team all-conference junior MB Eszter Nagy (2.22 kps) and senior MB Katie Martin (2.12 kps). Running the Chanticleer 5-1 offense is redshirt senior and Big South honorable mention setter Sam Skryd with 1,073 assists (9.50 aps). Senior DS Jenna Orner leads the defense with 4.68 dps.
SCOUTING HAMPTON: Hampton (21-10) won the Mid Eastern Athletic Conference and will make its second NCAA tournament appearance. The Lady Pirates were 11-1 in conference play, and swept Howard to secure the MEAC title. Senior RS Vendula Strakova is the reigning two-time MEAC Player of the Year and was named the 2014 MEAC Tournament's Most Outstanding Player. Strakova has collected 678 kills this season (5.84 kps), and averaged 6.59 pps to lead the NCAA in total kills and points per set. Her 5.84 kps rank second in the nation. Senior OHs Krista Kraskura and Sonja Maksimovic pick up 2.66 kps and 2.43 kps, respectively. Kraskura was selected to the All-MEAC second team, while Maksimovic earned third-team honors. Hampton gets its middle attack from senior MB Marija Kocevska (1.07 kps) and freshman MB Tatyana Thomas (0.75 kps). Running the Hampton offense is senior setter and first-team All-MEAC selection, Kitija Megne with 1,209 assists (12.42 aps).
SCOUTING NORTH CAROLINA: Seventh-ranked North Carolina (26-2) won the Atlantic Coast Conference and makes its 16th NCAA tournament appearance; the 12th under head coach Joe Sagula. UNC will host first- and second-round matches for the first time since 2005 and will carry the highest seed in the program's history at No. 7. The Tar Heels were 17-1 in the ACC and swept Wake Forest to secure the ACC title on Nov. 28. Senior RS Chaniel Nelson powers the Tar Heel offense with 2.90 kps. Fellow pin hitters, junior OH Leigh Andrew and senior OH Lauren McAdoo add 2.59 kps and 2.54 kps respectively. UNC gets its middle attack from junior MBs Paige Neuenfeldt (2.00 kps) and Victoria McPherson (1.59 kps). Leading the defense is senior libero Ece Taner with 4.48 dps. The Tar Heels run a 6-2 offense with setters junior Jordyn Schnabl (6.25 aps) and Abigail Curry (4.99 aps). The Women of Troy own a 2-0 overall record against North Carolina. USC has swept the Tar Heels in three each of its previous two meetings (1999 and 2009), both on neutral courts.