USC Set to Lock Horns With Texas for Regional Title|
Dec. 8, 2012
AUSTIN, Texas - Five years ago, to this day, USC and Texas met in the NCAA Gainesville Regional final. That time, the fifth seeded Trojans upset a fourth-seeded Texas squad in a three-set sweep en route to the national semifinals. This time, the tension in Gregory Gym is so thick; you could cut it with a steak knife as the sixth-seeded Women of Troy look to lasso the third-seeded Longhorns for a third consecutive trip to the national semifinal match.
USC head coach Mick Haley kept his Trojans undefeated (7-0) in the state of Texas, this season--21-1 in sets--in his first trip back to Austin with USC since his days as the Texas coach where he brought the program two national titles (1981, '88).
If that isn't ironic enough, try this: The last time the Women of Troy played Texas at Gregory Gym, they prevailed in three sets (15-6, 17-15, 15-4) on Sept. 1, 2000, under the guidance of none other than current Texas head coach Jerritt Elliott who was Troy's interim coach at the time.
The Trojans are seeking their fourth NCAA semifinal berth in the last six years. It is no surprise that the Longhorns are on the same journey as they seek a fourth appearance in the last five years. It won't be easy as Texas boasts a 17-2 record in home matches, this season. The Longhorns are the nation's top attacking team (.319) and rank ninth in the country in blocks (3.00 bps).
USC can put up a Texas-sized fight, though. Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Samantha Bricio can bring the heat with 4.78 kps in the postseason. Junior libero Natalie Hagglund has the Trojans keeping opponents at bay as she patrols the backcourt with 5.03 dps. At the other pin, senior opposite Katie Fuller must be accounted for as she puts up nearly four points per set (3.27 kps). Sophomore setter Hayley Crone has kept the USC machine churning to a .394 hitting rate in NCAA matches.
HOMETOWN HERO: Don't ask junior outside hitter Sara Shaw for tickets, this weekend. She is making a homecoming appearance and will get to play in front of family and friends in her hometown of Austin. Shaw was a four-year letterwinner at Austin's Westlake High for coach Al Bennett where she helped the team to three straight Class 5A state final appearances. She also played club volleyball for the Austin Juniors and was on the 17s Mizuno squad that won the 2008 USA Junior Olympic Girls' Volleyball Championship title.
TEXAS SUCCESS: The Trojans are 11-1 in postseason matches played in the state of Texas. USC went 8-0 in Austin to win the 1976 AIAW title. The last time the Trojans won the NCAA title, it defeated Minnesota and Florida in Dallas in 2003. USC's only postseason loss in the state came last year in a five-set defeat at the hands of Illinois in the national semifinal match held in San Antonio.
THIRD TIME'S A LONE STAR CHARM: Each of USC's two pre-conference road tournaments, this season, took place in the state of Texas. The Trojans have returned to the Lone Star State where they are 7-0, this year. In its first tournament, USC defeated Texas A&M, Texas State, and North Dakota. In the second go-round, the Trojans beat TCU, Lehigh, and Prairie View A&M. With the NCAA regional semifinal win over Wichita State, USC is 21-1 in sets in the state.
COACHING CAROUSEL: USC head coach Mick Haley owns a pair of national titles to show for his time as the head coach of the Texas Longhorns. While at Texas, Haley faced USC four times and split wins and losses with the Trojans. He is the only Texas head coach to hold at least a .500 record against USC. Current Texas head coach Jerritt Elliott was USC's interim coach during the 1999 and 2000 seasons while Haley was serving as the coach of Team USA. Jerritt finished his two years with a 50-12 mark and led USC to a share of the 2000 Pac-10 title on its way to an appearance in the NCAA national semifinal match. Since the two traded places, the teams have only met twice. In 2007, fifth-seeded USC took out fourth-seeded Texas in three sets in the NCAA's Florida Regional title match. The Longhorns got revenge in a sweep the following season in the 2008 Runza/AVCA Showcase in Omaha, Neb. The two teams will meet for the ninth meeting in a series history that dates back to USC's first year of women's volleyball (1976). The Trojans hold a 5-3 advantage in the series.
USC POSTSEASON RECORDS: The Trojans made their ninth appearance in the NCAA regional semifinal in 12 seasons under head coach Mick Haley. It was the 11th time that USC has advanced to the round of 16 since the tournament field was expanded to 64 teams in 1998. Troy now makes its eighth regional final appearance under Haley and eighth since 1998. USC is 69-26 in NCAA tournament matches for a .726 winning percentage and is 115-33 in all-time postseason matches.
AVCA HONORS FOR THREE: Freshman OH Samantha Bricio was named the AVCA Pacific Region Freshman of the Year to add to her numerous accolades. She became the first Trojan frosh to earn all-regional team honors since setter Taylor Carico was selected in 2006. Bricio is USC's fourth regional Freshman of the Year and joins Falyn Fonoimoana (2010), Carico (2006), and April Ross (2001). Senior opposite hitter Katie Fuller, and junior libero Natalie Hagglund were each also chosen to the All-Pacific Region team. Fuller was an honorable mention selection a year ago while Hagglund makes her second appearance on the team. Last season, Hagglund became USC's first-ever AVCA All-American libero. All three players are now eligible for All-America honors while Bricio is also in the running to become the program's first-ever National Freshman of the Year.