Women of Troy rebound from season’s first losses

The No. 3 USC women’s volleyball team overcame a mini-slump Sunday, dispatching of the Washington State Cougars 3-0 for its 14th win and 10th sweep of the season.

Ahead of the curve · Freshman outside hitter Samantha Bricio led USC in its three-set sweep of Washington State with 15 kills at a blistering .367 clip. The 17-year-old continues to pace the Women of Troy’s potent attack. – Corey Marquetti | Daily Trojan

The Women of Troy, who entered the game having been swept back-to-back by Oregon and Washington, put together a strong attack against the Cougars, overcoming a tough first set to win 26-24, 25-18, 25-20 and record their sixth consecutive win against Washington State.

“I think we were prepared Friday, we just didn’t get it done,” sophomore setter Hayley Crone said. “I think we got our confidence back today and worked our way through the game.”

Freshman outside hitter Samantha Bricio paced the team once again, turning in another strong performance with a team-high 15 kills.

Bricio added seven digs and two key blocks, including one that sealed the first set, while attacking at a steady .367 clip. Senior opposite Katie Fuller notched 10 kills to support Bricio, while the Women of Troy also received solid performances from junior outside hitter Sara Shaw (eight kills and 11 digs) and junior middle blocker Alexis Olgard (six blocks and six kills). Crone notched 36 assists to stabilize the team’s attack.

The first set was tightly contested, as the teams traded points back and forth before the Women of Troy staked themselves to a 14-9 lead.

After the Cougars fought back to push a 19-all tie, the Women of Troy again took the lead at 22-20, but WSU recorded a flurry of kills to hold set point at 24-23.

Bricio came up big, however, blocking a Cougar attack for her seventh kill of the set to tie the match at 24 apiece. Bricio then followed a WSU error with a solo block to claim the first set for the Women of Troy, who uncharacteristically struggled to a .143 hitting percentage in the set.

“That was a wild first game, no doubt about it,” USC coach Mick Haley said. “But we had fun, and we took care of what we needed to take care of offensively and defensively.”

The second set was more relaxing for the visitors, who once again overcame an early struggle to take the set 25-18.

Sophomore setter Emily Young’s kill ignited a 5-0 run for the Women of Troy, who went up 14-8 before shortly extending their lead to 19-10 as Crone set up senior middle blocker Natasa Siljkovic for a kill to put the game out of reach. The Women of Troy saw a marked improvement offensively in the second set, hitting .367 while holding the Cougars to .125 and 11 kills.

After a Bricio kill put the Women of Troy up 6-3 in the final set, the team never looked back, holding the lead the entire way through to claim the sweep.

WSU then brought the deficit down to 8-7, Fuller turned back a block for the kill to go up 14-9.

The team eventually widened its gap to 20-11. After a Shaw kill put the Women of Troy up 23-18, Bricio earned set point before Olgard finished off a Crone pass to seal the victory.

While the hitting once again struggled, the third set was the team’s best defensive performance of the game, as the Women of Troy held the Cougars to a paltry .025 attack percentage.

Looking forward, Haley is pleased with his team’s performance amid an unusual stretch of adversity.

“I think, offensively, we’re fine,” Haley said. “Our setter [Crone] is constantly learning new things and is getting better. It’s a lot of responsibility and she has to learn to relax more while she’s playing, but she was better and better today. She’s taken a lot of responsibility for the last two losses and unfairly I think, because the responsibility has to be shared by the entire team.”

Crone is confident in the team’s prospects entering next weekend’s matchups at the Galen Center.

“We haven’t played Arizona and Arizona State yet, so we don’t exactly know what to expect,” Crone admitted. “But we just need to remain consistent and, if we stick to our game plan, we’ll be fine.”

The team will return home this week to face Arizona Friday at 7 p.m. before a Sunday matchup against Arizona State at 4 p.m.