The No. 1-ranked USC women’s volleyball team (22-0, 10-0 Pac-12) is back on the road this weekend, starting the second half of their conference schedule by visiting No. 5-ranked Washington (18-2, 8-2) on Friday in Seattle before heading over to the Palouse to face Washington State (14-8, 3-7) on Sunday.
The Women of Troy are the lone undefeated team in the nation and are off to the fourth best start in program history. However, head coach Mick Haley knows that winning streak will be put to the test against the Huskies and the Cougars.
“It’s a hard schedule this year going to the Pacific Northwest back to back. We just got back from Oregon, and now we’re off to Seattle,” Haley said. “And it’s always a trap game when you play Washington first and you go to Pullman second, so you really have to be on your game to win two on the road this weekend.”
After two road victories against the Oregon schools last week, USC will square off in a rematch against another top-5 opponent in Washington. The last time these two teams met, USC pulled out a thrilling 3-1 victory at the Galen Center and snapped the Huskies’ 13-match winning streak. Senior outside hitter Samantha Bricio had 27 kills and three aces to lead USC in that match, while fellow senior Alicia Ogoms added 12 kills and six blocks.
Playing in Seattle has been a different story, however, as Alaska Airlines Arena has not been kind to the Women of Troy. USC has gone just 1-9 over the last 10 games in Seattle, dating back to 2004.
“They’re chomping at the bit to get back at us, and it’ll be their home match, so we’ll have to be really good,” Haley said. “I think this is probably going to be one of the more important matches of the year for both teams.”
Playing Washington State on Sunday will also be a challenge for USC, as the Cougars have pushed the Women of Troy to five sets in Pullman in each of the last two years.
“Washington State always plays well at home, and they always play us tough. We would expect nothing less than their best efforts,” Haley said.
Still, the Women of Troy lead the all-time series, 47-13, and have won 9 of the last 10 meetings.
The fast-paced Women of Troy offense will be headlined by the reigning Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week in Bricio, who leads USC with 5.07 kills per set and 0.76 aces per set. She has also found a formidable counterpart in freshman Alyse Ford, who has come on strong as of late. The 5-foot-10 pin hitter has strung together a number of impressive matches over the last three weeks and upped her season averages to 2.99 kills per set, second highest on the team, with a .299 hitting percentage.
On defense, USC will be led by Ogoms and junior libero Taylor Whittingham, both of whom lead the Pac-12 with 1.58 blocks per set and 5.11 digs per set, respectively.
Friday’s match against No. 5 Washington will tip off at 8 p.m. and will air on the Pac-12 Networks, while Sunday’s match against Washington State is set for 12:30 p.m.