In a battle for L.A. supremacy, No. 2 USC women’s volleyball took down No. 1 UCLA 3-1 at the Galen Center on Wednesday night. Though the Women of Troy started slow out of the gate, they more than made up for it with a blistering fourth set in which they outscored a talented Bruins team 25-17.
Led by freshman outside hitter Samantha Bricio, who finished with a career-high 19 kills to go along with seven aces, USC dominated every facet of the match. The Women of Troy shined at the net where freshman Alicia Ogoms and sophomore Alexis Olgard used their superior height to control the battle upfront, posting four combined blocks.
“That’s why we inserted [Ogoms] into the lineup,” USC coach Mick Haley said. “I knew we needed size against the Bruins to slow down their big girls — and when I say slow down, I mean that’s all we could do. They’ll be ready next time when we go over there and it should be fun.”
Bricio started out a little cold in the first set with only four kills, but broke out in the second set and stayed hot after that. Whether she was hitting from the outside or from the back row, the Mexico native looked and played like a veteran.
“I was a little nervous, but then I just went out there and starting playing, “ Bricio said. “I felt good because I had the support of my teammates around me.”
Setting her the ball was sophomore Hayley Crone, who did an outstanding job distributing the ball with 53 assists on the night. Like any great setter, Crone fed the hot hand all night, whether it was Bricio, senior Katie Fuller or junior Sara Shaw, and even displayed great court awareness with four dinks for points.
“We played awesome defense, and you really have to give credit to Natalie [Hagglund] for digging all those balls down the line,” Crone said. ”I was able to read the blocks and just put the ball in the spots I needed to.”
USC fell down 12-15 early in the first set, but Crone fed Olgard for an easy kill and the comeback was on. Behind senior opposite Katie Fuller, who had seven kills in the match, the Women of Troy refused to yield and Olgard came away with another big kill to tie the match at 23 apiece. After the two teams traded kills, USC would capitalize on UCLA’s missed opportunities including a hit out of bounds to take the set 28-26.
Maintaining the momentum from the last set, USC jumped out to an early 6-1 lead. Following a UCLA timeout, it turned into the Samantha Bricio show, as the freshman had four kills in a span of seven points to put the Women of Troy up 14-9.
UCLA outside hitter Tabi Love, who was a force all day, took hold of the set with back-to-back kills to keep the Bruins’ hopes alive.
But, Bricio put USC up for good with three successive kills. A Crone-to-Fuller connection ended the set with USC coming out on top 25-20.
“Katie [Fuller] is our workhorse, and if you look it up she actually had more kills than Bricio [she had 21 tying a career high]. Even though she got tired at the end, any time we needed a big hit she was there, “ Haley said.
In the third set, Bricio continued to dominate from the back row early on, but with the score knotted at seven, UCLA seized control of the momentum. Behind the stellar play of Love and fellow senior Rachael Kidder, who had a team-high 18 kills, the Bruins kept a one-point lead all the way to the finish. With USC and UCLA trading kills, mostly from Bricio and Fuller, the momentum stayed with the Bruins. Even after Hayley Crone set a winner over on two to pull USC into a 21-all tie, UCLA’s Love hit three kills in the last six points to push the Bruins to a 26-24 victory.
In the fourth and final set, both teams came out strong with the score tied at five apiece. With Bricio in full force and Fuller starting to heat up again, the Women of Troy forced UCLA to start pressing and the game turned after an early stalemate. Once USC went up 12-7 in the middle of the set, the Bruins couldn’t overcome several unforced errors and the outstanding serves by USC proved too much to handle. A block by Olgard fittingly sealed the match at 25-17.