The USC women’s volleyball team saw its run of perfection end at the hands of the University of San Diego Friday night, but overcame the tough loss to defeat UC Santa Barbara and Eastern Washington to improve to 8-1 on the season.
The Women of Troy couldn’t muster enough to defeat the 9th-ranked Toreros, who have gone on a tear after being unranked to open the season. They fell in four sets 23-25, 25-20, 22-25, 25-19.
“I think San Diego is playing tremendously well. They’re in midseason form and they’re better than I could have ever anticipated,” head coach Mick Haley said. “That’s why I voted them No. 1 last week.”
Freshman outside hitter Ebony Nwanebu led the way with 13 kills and senior middle blocker Alexis Olgard recorded 11 kills and seven blocks, but the effort came up short. The defense failed to contain the USD duo of Chloe Ferrari and Katie Hoekman, who combined for a whopping 38 kills from the middle position.
“We should have gone up 2-0 in the match, but we gave away that first set,” Haley said. “But if they’re in midseason form and we’re still trying to figure out our lineup, then I think we’re pretty good. It was a good match for us to be in, and all the stuff we learned from that will keep making us better.”
USC quickly shook off the loss Saturday to knock off Santa Barbara 3-1. After dropping the first set 20-25, the Women of Troy dominated the remainder of the match, going 25-21, 25-15 and 26-24. Freshman outside hitter Elise Ruddins continued her opening-season tear with a team-high 24 kills, and senior outside hitter Sara Shaw posted a double-double with 10 kills and 12 digs.
The Women of Troy completed the tournament with a 3-0 sweep of the Eastern Washington Eagles (25-12, 25-23, 25-21) in the second half of a doubleheader. Ruddins (14) and sophomore outside hitter Samantha Bricio (12) combined for 26 kills to pace the USC attack, which has outhit their opponent in every match so far this season.
“Obviously, we want to win every game. But the fact that we were able to get two freshmen out there (in Nwanebu and Ruddins) is very helpful. I didn’t think that Bricio had a good weekend. The other teams are really going after her because they know how good she was last year. I’m looking for her to grow and accept the challenge.”
Ruddins and senior libero Natalie Hagglund were named to the all-tournament team, with Hagglund getting her third straight nod.
Haley noted that while the wins are piling up and “things are coming along well,” he still does not think the team is as good as they can be.
“We have to work out some kinks in some of our rotations. We’re very conventional and we’re not showing very much right now,” Haley said. “We’re playing basic volleyball and not trying to do a lot of fancy things.”
USC has mostly wrapped up its preconference schedule, and as it prepares to play its home opener Wednesday, Haley emphasizes that no single match will be an easy one going forward.
“It’s going to be a lot of hard work, and the kids have to stay with us,” Haley said. “I want to get a primary passer to go with the three we have right now so we can rest some people from time to time. I also want our setters to understand our system better. They have moments when they’re really good, and then they’ll take a step back. They need to keep improving.”
The Women of Troy will host UC Irvine Wednesday at the Galen Center before a Friday night match against Cal State Fullerton.