The Women of Troy put forth another impressive road performance over the weekend, winning the Marquette Challenge to improve to 6-0 on the season. USC knocked off TCU and host Marquette in a Friday doubleheader before dispatching of Northern Illinois 3-1 on Saturday, a week after notching three straight wins to capture the Mortar Board Premier Tournament in Indiana.
“The first thing that comes to mind was that the competition was very good this week,” USC head coach Mick Haley said. “We had to travel to the Midwest last week and go back there again this week, so I’m proud of the way we played.”
Sophomore outside hitter Samantha Bricio continued her opening-season tear with strong performances in each match to earn tournament Most Valuable Player honors. Senior middle blocker Alexis Olgard and senior libero Natalie Hagglund were named all-tournament team members, with Hagglund receiving the nod for the second consecutive weekend.
The Women of Troy received stiff competition from TCU in the opening match, but fended them off in four sets to win 25-9, 25-18, 24-26, 28-26. Bricio earned 23 points on 16 kills and two blocks, pacing a USC attack that quickly won the first two sets.
The Women of Troy earned quick leads in each of the third and fourth sets, after which the Horned Frogs came back to keep the score close. With the score knotted at 26-26 in the final set, the Women of Troy secured the win after a hitting error and match-winning kill by freshman outside hitter Elise Ruddins.
USC’s outside hitters once again rose to the occasion later in the day, providing ample offense to spearhead a 3-0 sweep (25-16, 25-19, 25-14) of Marquette in the second match of the doubleheader. Bricio recorded nine kills and was complemented well by junior outside hitter Emily Young, who recorded a career-high tying eight kills and a stellar .583 attacking percentage.
The Golden Eagles kept the first two sets close, but the Women of Troy made quick work of the third set, storming out to a 22-12 lead before concluding the match on two Olgard kills and a Marquette hitting error.
“I thought we played well against TCU, even though we got glazed over because we were tired,” Haley said. “But we put together a very strong match against Marquette.”
The Women of Troy traveled to DeKalb, Illinois and needed everything within Bricio’s arsenal to fend off Northern Illinois in the tournament’s final match, as they came away with a 3-1 victory (25-22, 25-22, 19-25, 25-16) to continue their perfect start. Bricio recorded a tremendous 20 points on 16 kills to go along with two service aces and two solo blocks, while Ruddins and fellow freshman outside hitter Ebony Nwanebu recorded eight kills each to supplement Bricio’s offense.
In their opening and closing matches, the Women of Troy dropped the third set but regrouped to take the fourth frame—a critical point of emphasis from Haley.
“The first thing that you ask is, ‘Why did you lose that set?’ Then you need to ask what changes need to be made,” Haley said. “Sometimes we change matchups instead of changing the lineup, and I think the team did a good job with that because it was the best opportunity for us.”
Young, a Schaumburg, Ill. native who celebrated her homecoming with three wins and a solid performance in the middle match, was particularly proud of the way the team kept its composure on the road yet again.
“This was our second trip to the Midwest, so we had to have more focus,” Young said. “Since school has started, we have our studies and we had three matches against good teams in two different locations, so it was tough.”
The Women of Troy will fly back to Southern California to participate in the USD tournament in San Diego Sept. 13 and 14, after which they’ll take on UC Irvine in their much-anticipated home opener Sept. 18 at the Galen Center.