The USC women’s volleyball team showed once again Friday that when it’s down, it’s not out.
The No. 6 Women of Troy, coming off a disappointing 3-0 sweep at the hands of Stanford on Wednesday night, rallied to defeat California 3-0 (25-22, 25-21, 25-20) on Friday night at Haas Pavilion, improving their record to 17-3 overall and 5-3 in Pac-12 action.
“I’m really pleased; this is our hardest trip of the year,” USC coach Mick Haley said. “This is the fifth day we’ve been on the road, in the middle of the week, with midterms, too. They’re all very tired, so for them to come in here and win 3-0 is very, very good.”
Freshman outside hitter Samantha Bricio, fresh off a Pac-12 Player of the Week award, paced the USC attack again with 14 kills and also added 12 digs to assist the defense. Senior opposite hitter Katie Fuller posted another double-double with 10 kills and 15 digs, while sophomore setter Hayley Crone recorded 10 digs to along with 39 assists.
“The 3-0 loss to Stanford really got into our heads, so everyone came today really focused and prepared,” Fuller said. “We executed a lot better than we did against Stanford and got the momentum back.”
The first set featured incredible back-and-forth action between the teams, with Cal jumping out in front to take a 10-8 lead. The Women of Troy took the lead at 12-11 after back-to-back kills by Crone and junior outside hitter Sara Shaw.
The Bears came back to take a 16-14 lead, but senior defensive specialist Erin Yoder notched USC’s third ace of the set to put the Women of Troy up 21-20. Four errors brought up match point, after which Fuller and freshman middle blocker Alicia Ogoms made a tandem block to terminate the rally and take the set 25-22. Though hitting wasn’t a strong point for either team, the Bears struggled mightily with a .148 attacking percentage.
The Women of Troy blasted out of the gate in the second set, as five consecutive kills put them up 9-2. But Cal put forth a relentless attack to wipe out the deficit and knot things at 15 apiece.
After the Bears turned the tables and took a 20-17 lead, the Women of Troy rallied, with Bricio knocking down back-to-back kills and sophomore setter and opposite hitter Emily Young registering a third kill to give the Women of Troy a 23-21 lead. A Bricio kill sealed the frame at 25-21 for the Women of Troy, who improved to a .261 attacking clip while holding Cal to a mere .100 rate with ten kills.
The third set marked another strong start for the Women of Troy, who capitalized on consecutive aces by Yoder to jump ahead 6-2. Fuller turned back a Cal block to go up 11-5, and two crosscourt kills by Bricio gave the Women of Troy a seven-point advantage at 13-6. From that point, Cal never made a significant dent in the lead, as Fuller set up match point before a service error sealed the set 25-20 and the match for the Women of Troy.
“We served well against Stanford, and the people watching and reporting weren’t really fair with our effort, because we did some things really well,” Haley said. “Tonight, it was clear that we played well, and Cal brought their best game, so I’m pretty pleased with the team for that effort.”
The game marked the 12th time in 20 matches the Women of Troy swept an opponent, and the third set proved to be the best defensive effort for the team, as they held Cal to a match-low .079 rate with just nine kills.
The team will take advantage of the upcoming four-game homestand to recuperate.
“As we come back home, we just really want to work on our defense and execution,” Fuller said. “We need to maintain the momentum and work on our ball skills.”
The Women of Troy will battle Utah on Friday night before squaring off against Colorado on Sunday morning.
“We’re going to work on our offense, and put in a few new things in our offensive system,” Haley said. “We’re going to work very hard, but we’ve got to shorten the practices because of midterms, and we’re hoping we can be good enough to win next weekend.”