Chase for the title

It’s almost become a familiar story.

For the 21st consecutive season, the No. 1 USC women’s volleyball team will be playing in the NCAA tournament.

Now, however, the team hopes to capture its first national title since 2003.

The Women of Troy (25-4, 20-2) finished the season winning 20 of their last 21 matches, but drew the No. 7 seed in the tournament and will host the Yale Bulldogs (18-6, 12-2), who were Ivy League champions.

Falling in place · Despite the ineligibility of outside hitter Falyn Fonoimoana, senior setter Kendall Bateman (right) and the Women of Troy have amassed 25 wins and a No. 1 ranking. - Carlo Acenas | Daily Trojan

USC’s core of seniors — outside hitter Alex Jupiter, setter Kendall Bateman and middle blocker Lauren Williams — was a key reason for USC’s success.

Last week, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott announced a bevy of awards in which many of USC’s players were recognized: Jupiter won Pac-12 Player of the Year and earned All-Pac-12 honors, and the native of France became just the third player in USC history to earn conference player of the year honors.

Jupiter continues to be a lethal force on the offensive end, finishing third in the Pac-12 averaging four kills per set. After capping off the regular season with a 18-kill, five-dig performance against UCLA, Jupiter ended the year as USC’s all-time leader in kills (1,822) and points (2,142).

Bateman and Williams also earned All-Pac-12 Conference honors. Bateman became USC’s all-time assists leader against UCLA, and she now has 4,264 career assists. Junior outside hitter Katie Fuller earned conference honorable mention.

The Women of Troy’s underclassmen also played an integral role as sophomore libero Natalie Hagglund was named Pac-12 Libero of the Year and freshman middle blocker Hannah Schraer received Pac-12 All-Freshman honorable mention. Meanwhile, USC coach Mick Haley was nominated Pac-12 Coach of the Year for guiding the team to its 11th straight postseason appearance under his watch.

Yale, making its third NCAA appearance in program history, is led by outside hitters Mollie Rogers and Allie Frappier, who have 536 kills and 520 digs combined.

The Bulldogs finished the season winning 12 of their last 14 matches and won their second straight Ivy League title, making it their third in four years.

“They have five girls from San Diego so that makes for a very interesting situation,” Haley said.  “Yale is very worthy to be in the tournament and we need to be ready to play against them on Friday.”

If the Women of Troy advance past Yale, they will host the winner of Tulsa-Oklahoma in the second round.

Tulsa, the reigning Conference USA champions, finished the year 27-6, winning 14 of its last 15 matches. The Golden Hurricanes compiled an 18-2 record under coach Steven McRoberts, who is in his first year at the helm. Tulsa is led by outside hitter Tyler Henderson with 553 kills, ranking seventh nationally, and 582.5 points. Outside hitter Diana Silva notched 336 kills and 359 digs on the year.

The Sooners played the Women of Troy in the 2009 NCAA tournament, as USC swept Oklahoma in its first-round matchup.

Oklahoma relies on senior Suzy Boulavsky, who leads the Sooners with 397 kills and 93 blocks. Senior setter Brianne Barker, who has 125 kills and 1,186 assists this season.

Despite high hopes and expectations from an experienced group of players, the Women of Troy are keeping an even-keeled approach, and not overlooking any opponent.

First serve is at 7 p.m. at Galen Center.