The USC women’s volleyball team took care of business in its final pre-conference game of the season, turning back Cal State Fullerton 3-0 Friday night to improve to 10-1.
The Women of Troy honored All-American middle blocker Emily Adams in between the second and third sets, raising her No. 9 to the rafters of the Galen Center. The squad did her proud in sweeping CSUF (25-19, 25-16, 25-23) to improve to 23-0 all-time against the Titans.
“We played really well. We had times of greatness and times where we had to step back and take a deep breath, but I think that happens with any young team,” senior libero Natalie Hagglund said.
Hagglund recorded 17 digs and was complemented nicely by senior outside hitter Sara Shaw, who notched a season-high 14 of her own. Sophomore outside hitter Samantha Bricio turned in another strong performance with 15 kills, and her freshman counterpart Ebony Nwanebu chipped in 10. Senior middle blocker Alexis Olgard added seven.
USC suffered a critical loss, however, when junior setter Hayley Crone injured herself during the second set and had to be removed from the game. Freshman setter Alice Pizzasegola, who had split duties with Crone to start the season, filled in ably with 17 assists to go along with five digs.
USC head coach Mick Haley praised the team’s competitiveness following Crone’s injury and a strong push from Fullerton in the latter stages of the match.
“We were not in rhythm and we are still struggling to get a rhythm, so we were kind of drained. I really think it was the trajectory of our passes and then losing Hayley [Crone], of course, added to that stress,” Haley said. “But it was a 3-0 win. They had opportunities to come back and get us, but we were able to hold them off, and we were constantly adding points. This game was a confidence builder because we were able to come back and win without Hayley.”
The first set saw both teams battle to a 14-14 tie before USC pulled away. Shaw recorded a service ace in between kills by Olgard and Bricio to take the lead at 17-14, after which back-to-back Bricio aces gave the Women of Troy an insurmountable lead. USC sealed the set when junior middle blocker Hannah Schraer knocked down a kill and CSUF committed an attacking error.
USC stormed out of the gates in the second frame, posting a 16-9 lead on an Olgard kill. The Titans pushed hard but never came within more than five points of USC the rest of the way. A pair of CSUF attacking errors brought up match point, after which sophomore middle blocker Kiara Wright knocked down a kill to give USC the set 25-16.
“We had some players who had the chance to perform. Emily [Young] got to come in and set, which was incredible because she has not had that opportunity,” Hagglund said. “Kiara [Wright] came in and played awesome by hitting some great balls and had some big blocks. It was really cool to see.”
The combination of Crone’s injury and a strong Fullerton push made the third set challenging for USC, who at one point fell behind 16-14. Kills by Schraer and Shaw, however, pushed USC to a 22-19 lead, after which junior outside hitter Emily Young knocked down the last of her five kills to seal the match.
With crosstown rival No. 11 UCLA coming to the Galen Center this week, Haley stressed that his squad is still not performing at an optimal level, especially with regard to its offense.
“We can’t make so many errors,” Haley said. “I thought Fullerton provided us a chance to practice against a different offensive system, and that showed us two and three different timings. So our block jump timing had to be adjusted whether they set back row, front row or quick, and they did a nice job of alternating those. That is something we need to get better at.”