The USC women’s volleyball team traveled to Salt Lake City and carried the lingering effects of its UCLA win with it, defeating the University of Utah 3-0 (25-22, 25-21, 25-13) Sunday to improve to 12-1.
“I thought it was a good win. This is a hard place to play with the altitude,” USC head coach Mick Haley said. “I thought we [put forth] a great effort and were very alert. We executed extremely well. To get out of here with a 3-0 win is pretty special because [Utah] plays well and they have a big arena which makes it hard to play.”
After a high-octane victory over the rival Bruins Wednesday night, the Women of Troy had to hit the road and face a daunting Utah team that entered the match 12-1. But after two tight sets, USC cruised through the third set to capture its second consecutive Pac-12 victory.
Sophomore outside hitter Samantha Bricio continued her tear with 16 kills and four service aces for a total of 20 points. Her freshman counterpart, Ebony Nwanebu, hit .412 with nine kills while junior outside hitter Emily Young (8) and junior middle blocker Hannah Schraer (7) combined for 15 kills.
The first set saw back-and-forth action in which neither team was able to build a lead of greater than three points. After a flurry of ties, Bricio knocked down consecutive kills and Nwanebu blocked a Utah shot to put the USC lead at 20-17. The Utes battled back to come within 22-20 and 24-22, but freshman setter Alice Pizzasegola fed Bricio for a kill that sealed the set. Bricio recorded a stellar nine kills in the opening frame as USC collectively hit .389 and recorded 19 kills.
“We’re usually susceptible to those hitting errors when you’re on the road, but I thought our offense played well today,” Haley said. “We recorded 19 kills in the first set which is very good production for us. I’d still like to reduce the hitting errors by about two per set, but it’s a work in progress and it was a good effort today.”
The second set mirrored the first in the outset but USC built a 14-9 lead after four straight points, including two service aces by Bricio. The Utes stormed back and eventually pulled to within 21-19 after a kill and a block, but the Women of Troy stalled any comeback hopes. Nwanebu recorded consecutive kills to bring up match point and then sealed the match with another kill at 25-21. Senior libero Natalie Hagglund recorded 12 digs in the middle frame alone to keep Utah’s attacking percentage at .178.
Unlike Wednesday’s match, the Women of Troy took care of business in the third set itself, storming out to a 12-6 lead on a kill by Young. Utah failed to put a dent in the lead, and USC doubled up the Utes 24-12 with senior outside hitter Sara Shaw knocking down an ace in between two Bricio kills. Utah recorded a kill but then sealed the match for USC with a serving error.
After a nine-point victory in the fourth set to retire the Bruins Wednesday, USC recorded a 12-point triumph over Utah in the third set, putting to rest any hopes of a comeback.
“I hope that we’re wearing the opponents down, but I think our serving is a constant attack on the opponent,” Haley said. “Our blocking is much better this year so I think we’re constantly putting pressure on our opponents. If they flinch and they blink, we’ve been able to separate, and we’d like to keep that up.”
The Women of Troy will return to the Galen Center this week to face their two Northern California rivals. They will square off against Stanford on Friday night and UC Berkeley on Sunday afternoon to continue their Pac-12 schedule.
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