The USC women’s volleyball team defeated St. Mary’s with a three-set sweep (28-26, 25-16, 25-19) in the second round of the NCAA championships, were hosted at the Galen Center on Saturday night.
Senior opposite hitter Katie Fuller had a team-high 15 kills while freshman outside hitter Samantha Bricio double-doubled with 14 kills and a game-high 12 digs to help power the Women of Troy to victory.
“I’m very happy with the win. I thought this was a hard test for us, and I’m glad we accepted the challenge and I think we got better for it,” USC coach Mick Haley said after the game.
Junior middle blocker Alexis Olgard had a solid match as well, notching six solo blocks along with four blocking assists and helped shut down a strong St. Mary’s attack.
“We did a good job putting a lot of pressure on [Gaels outside hitter Kristina] Graven and making it difficult for her,” Haley said. “Graven has been their bread-and-butter player and we felt having Fuller and Olgard on her was our best chance to win.”
The first set had all the makings of an NCAA tournament game as Saint Mary’s gave the Women of Troy all they could handle in the first set. USC took the Gaels’ best punches with middle blocker Gabby Jolly (nine kills) and outside hitter Jordan Shaw, who had three of her seven kills during the game’s final 10 points, leading the way.
Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Bricio matched Shaw in kills during the same period, and Olgard supplemented her offense with three blocks in the set, one of which being the game-winner.
St. Mary’s started the set by keeping USC on its toes. Fuller was hot early on in the set and finished with seven kills. Long rallies were the theme of the first set with momentum swinging back and forth throughout.
“Early on it was our defense figuring out their offense and what we do as a team to help out our defense is to play well at the net,” Fuller said about the first set. “We had zero [hitting] errors in the first set and that really helped us.”
USC came out strong in the next set, as they never trailing in the 25-16 win. The middle position carried the Women of Troy in this game, with freshman blocker Alicia Ogoms getting involved early with back-to-back kills and Olgard continuing her dominant defensive performance with two blocks and another two blocking assists.
USC’s wall in the middle of the net created problems for St. Mary’s, particularly the Shaw-Jolly combo that combined for only four kills in the set. After notching 24 kills as a team in the first set, the Gaels registered just nine in the second.
St. Mary’s tried to keep it close, but USC ripped off a four-point stretch that saw its lead balloon to 14-10 behind two kills from junior outside hitter Sara Shaw and 1.5 blocks from Olgard — and the squad never looked back.
The third and final set proved to be the least competitive of any of the sets, with USC winning handily 25-19. Once again, the combination of Olgard’s blocking and Fuller’s attacking proved to be too much to handle for the Gaels.
Moving forward, the Women of Troy will head to Texas, where they sport a 10-1 record in NCAA tournament games in the state. Their next opponent has yet to be announced.