Opening weekend could not have gone better for the No. 22-ranked USC women’s volleyball team. Three teams came to the Galen Center Friday and Saturday to partake in the annual Women of Troy Baden Invitational, and it was USC (3-0) that came out on top. The Women of Troy hosted two Top-15 teams, No. 7 North Carolina and No. 11 BYU, while Chicago State rounded out the field. But by Saturday night, USC was the only team left undefeated.
In the season opener on Friday against North Carolina, USC displayed a new offense that stumped the Tar Heels, allowing the Women of Troy to notch their first upset win of the season with a four-set victory (25-20, 23-25, 25-18, 25-11).
Senior outside hitter Samantha Bricio led USC with 24 kills and 18 digs to notch her first double-double of the season and added an ace and five block assists. However, it wasn’t just Bricio who contributed to the win.
On the right side, sophomore opposite Brittany Abercrombie tied her career-high of 13 kills on a .367 hitting clip, while adding five blocks. Three freshmen also came into the game and saw a lot of action, led by setter Baylee Johnson. The Dayton, Ohio native earned the first start of her career and finished with 30 assists and 11 digs to tally her first double-double. Defensive specialist Victoria Garrick also nabbed her first-ever start, providing solid defense in the back row to finish second on the team with 14 digs, while outside hitter Alyse Ford recorded 10 kills in her first college game.
USC’s upperclassmen made an impact as well. Senior middle blocker Alicia Ogoms finished with 10 kills on a .600 hitting clip, while adding seven blocks (one solo); junior Elise Ruddins made her debut at middle blocker and added five kills and seven blocks (one solo); junior libero Taylor Whittingham had 13 digs and two aces; and junior setter Alice Pizzasegola added 27 assists.
This was USC’s fifth straight season-opening victory, as USC avenged its only loss to the Tar Heels, which came during the second round of last year’s NCAA Tournament.
It was a quick turnaround on Saturday morning for the Women of Troy, who had a matchup against Chicago State at 10:00 a.m. It was the first-ever meeting between the two schools, but the Cougars would prove to be no match for the Women of Troy, as USC completed a three-set sweep (25-17, 25-15, 25-19).
Bricio led the way with nine kills and three service aces for a match-high 12.0 points, while Abercrombie hit .385 and added six kills. The freshman Ford was perfect on the day, adding six kills on nine swings for a stellar .667 hitting percentage.
Sophomore transfer Niki Withers saw her first extensive minutes in the cardinal and gold, hitting .455 with seven kills and a block, and setters Pizzasegola and Johnson both tallied 17 assists. Rachel Reed, a freshman middle blocker who has been dealing with injuries throughout the preseason, also earned her first career start against the Cougars. Reed chipped in four kills on a .429 hitting percentage, two aces and a team-high three blocks. Freshman outside hitter Tatum Harvey also saw action for the first time in her career, adding a service.
In what was perhaps the biggest game of the tournament, USC faced off against a familiar foe in the No. 11-ranked BYU Cougars. The last time these two teams met, USC defeated BYU at the Galen Center in the 2013 NCAA regional semifinal.
In a very back-and-forth game with great defense played on both sides, USC was able to come up with the timely kills that allowed the Women of Troy to sweep the Cougars (25-23, 25-22, 25-22).
In this match, the offense was only coming from two of USC’s pin hitters. Bricio once again led the Women of Troy with a whopping 25 kills on a .400 hitting clip to go with her 11 digs, three blocks and a service ace. Brittany Abercrombie put up 11 kills on a .308 hitting percentage and added two blocks of her own.
Defensively, middle blocker Alicia Ogoms tallied seven blocks (one solo), libero Taylor Whittingham recorded 22 digs and the freshman Garrick added 11 digs and two aces.
Once the dust had settled, it was USC that took home the hardware at the 2015 Women of Troy Baden Invitational. Bricio was chosen as the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, and was joined on the all-tournament team by Ogoms and Abercrombie.
USC will now gear up for their first travel trip to Cedar Falls, Iowa, to participate in the Northern Iowa Tournament held next Friday and Saturday.