Women of Troy breeze through first round

USC, seeded No. 7 overall in the 64-team NCAA tournament, easily won its first-round home matchup Friday night against Yale 3-0 (25-13, 25-13, 25-18) behind a team-high 11 kills from sophomore middle blocker Alexis Olgard.

Olgard had no errors while hitting .647 (11-0-17) and recording three blocks against the Bulldogs (18-12), the Ivy League champions.

Senior outside hitter Alex Jupiter, the Pac-12 Conference Player of the Year, only contributed four kills, but the Women of Troy’s strong middle attack was more than enough to keep the Bulldogs busy.

“I was proud of the effort,” said USC coach Mick Haley. “We didn’t give them much at all, and we were able to attack them in the middle.”

Senior All-American Lauren Williams added 10 kills to give the Women of Troy (26-4) another double-digit scoring effort from the middle, combining with Olgard to record nearly half of USC’s terminations.

The Women of Troy hit .350 as a team, and had only one hitting error in each of the first two sets.

“The team is definitely hungry to win a national championship,” Williams said. “I thought tonight we were tough, and we came out on fire.”

USC hasn’t lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament since 1989, and it was clear from the start Friday night that that streak would last another year.

The first two sets were nearly identical, with USC taking 21-9 leads in both before trading points with Yale to clinch each set 25-13. The Women of Troy hit .414 in both sets.

But Yale showed some life in the third set, jumping out to a 6-1 lead, but the Women of Troy responded with an 8-1 run to take a 9-7 lead.

The Bulldogs didn’t go quietly, taking a 12-11 lead on one of Williams’ few errors of the night.

However, USC went on an 11-3 run from there that essentially put the match away, ending Yale’s season.

“I thought we did a good job at the start,” Haley said. “I was disappointed that we got behind in the third game like that, but … we came out on top 3-0.”

The Women of Troy have their last home match of the season Saturday night in the second round against Tulsa (28-6), the C-USA conference champions.

The Golden Hurricane feature junior outside hitter Tyler Henderson, the C-USA conference player of the year who scored 30 kills in Tulsa’s four-set victory in the first round against Oklahoma.

“[Henderson] is somebody we really have to deal with, so we’ll try and be as disruptive as we can,” Haley said. “We’ll try to keep them off the net so we can get as good a block [as we can] on Henderson and their other three hitters that really produce well for them.”

USC faces off against the Golden Hurricane at 7 p.m. at the Galen Center on Saturday, and the winner will play No. 10 seed Hawaii (31-1) in the Honolulu regional next weekend.

“We expect a very good match tomorrow night from our opponents,” Haley said in reference to Tulsa. “The NCAA tournament is where everybody tries everything they can to win.”