Embarking on arguably its toughest road trip of the season, the USC women’s volleyball team proved victorious against one of its strongest rivals in a match it hopes will be the start of another dominant stretch.
And as USC attempted to proved itself as one of the nation’s elite teams, one of its players solidified her standing as one of the program’s best all-time performers.
The No. 4 Women of Troy (19-3, 9-2 Pac-12) turned back Stanford in a thrilling five-set match Wednesday night (16-25, 25-23, 25-18, 22-25, 15-9) to improve to 19-3 on the season and 9-2 in Pac-12 competition. And as the second set neared its conclusion, with USC facing the possibility of a 2-0 deficit, Hagglund took over when her team needed her most.
After the Cardinal went up 23-18 in the second set, the Women of Troy stormed back and won seven consecutive points to take the set 25-23. Hagglund served on the last six points, and also tied and surpassed the career digs record (2,071) set by Debora Seilhamer by registering her 13th dig of the night to become the school’s all-time leader with 2,072.
The victory was USC’s first at Maples Pavilion since 2006 and marked the school’s first season sweep of the Cardinal since 2003. The loss was also Stanford’s first at home since falling to Michigan on Dec. 3, 2011, and dropped the Cardinal to 15-5 and 8-3 in the Pac-12.
The Women of Troy got off to a slow start in the first set as Stanford jumped out to leads of 8-5 and 12-6. USC failed to put a significant dent in the lead, as they fell behind 20-13 and failed to recover. The Cardinal ended any hopes of a comeback and took the set 25-16. USC struggled on both sides of the net, hitting just .128 while allowing Stanford to record 17 kills at a .516 clip.
After the thrilling second set tied up the score, the Women of Troy built upon their momentum and pushed ahead 6-2 in the third frame. Stanford came back to within 10-9 on a kill by senior Carly Wopat, but USC rattled off five out of six points to go up 15-10. Stanford pulled to within 20-15, but USC staved off a rally and won it 25-18 when freshman Ebony Nwanebu knocked down her 12th kill. USC overcame its hitting woes to attack at a .486 clip with 20 kills while holding Stanford to .257 with 13 kills.
The Women of Troy continued their uphill climb in the fourth set and built a 15-11 lead before the Cardinal cut it to 16-13. The set remained hotly contested as neither team could string together more than a couple of points. USC went up 20-18, but the Cardinal registered three straight to go ahead 21-20 and pulled away, winning 25-22 to send USC to its second five-set match of the season.
That first five-set contest had been in the friendly confines of the Galen Center — a win in front of the comparatively raucous crowd in Palo Alto would assuredly be a much more difficult task. But just as they had in their first five-set contest, the Women of Troy found an extra gear and emerged victorious.
In an expectedly tight deciding frame, USC went ahead 4-2 to force a timeout from Stanford. The Women of Troy continued to inch ahead, grabbing leads of 6-4 and 8-5 before the Cardinal came up with a key block from Inky Ajanaku and Madison Bugg to close the deficit to a single point at 8-7.
USC regained its composure, staking out an 11-8 lead and forcing another Stanford timeout.
But this time, the stoppage in play seemed to fuel USC — The Women of Troy found enough energy to end any comeback hopes, taking four of the final five points to clinch the set 15-9 and secure their 19th victory of the season.
The triumph was important in both its implications for this season and in its historical significance.
After beating Stanford, the Women of Troy are now only a half-game behind Washington (17-1, 9-1) for first place in the Pac-12.
The victory also marked only the third time in school history that USC has swept its season series with Stanford (2000, 2003).
The Women of Troy will coincidentally face the other team that stretched them to five sets, California (13-6, 6-4), in their next matchup.
USC will have Thursday night off before playing at Berkeley on Friday night to conclude their Northern California trip.
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