With a 19-3 record and accomplishments from veterans and rookies alike, the No. 7 USC women’s volleyball team has not had to deal with much adversity this season. Coach Mick Haley’s club has made quick work of its opponents, having recorded sweeps in 14 of their 19 wins.
Regardless, the Women of Troy will use this weekend as a measuring tool for their season as they face the No. 5 Huskies on Friday and Washington State on Saturday at the Galen Center.
While the Cougars have struggled and remain winless in Pac-12 competition, the Huskies have fought neck-and-neck with the Women of Troy, having established a 19-2 overall record that includes a 3-0 sweep of USC when the Women of Troy made their trip to Washington on Sept. 28.
“Our confidence right now is exactly where it needs to be,” senior opposite Katie Fuller said. “After the loss to Stanford we came into practice and challenged ourselves. We not only focused on attacking what we think are our strong points, but also the strong points of our opponents, and that’s what we need to do this weekend against the Washington teams.”
Following a disappointing 3-0 sweep at the hands of the Cardinal on Oct. 10, the Women of Troy responded immediately with a sweep of Cal on Oct. 12 before dominant home victories over Utah and Colorado last weekend. The weekend featured more strong performances from freshman outside hitter Samantha Bricio, who notched an astounding 11 aces to power the Women of Troy service attack. She also added 18 kills between the matches and nabbed her fourth Freshman of the Week honors to add to her quickly expanding list of accolades.
While Bricio has carried the team on her back, Haley is quick to point out the need to keep things in perspective, especially with teams gunning to take down USC.
“We took both of these teams out with our serving this weekend,” Haley said. “That’s important. But you have to assess how the serving will be against a different team or in a foreign facility. Bricio’s been knocking down aces and we have a combination of different serves we can use, but on the road it’s difficult. Even Bricio is having trouble focusing on the road, just because she’s had to do so much as a freshman.”
While the likes of Fuller, junior middle blocker Alexis Olgard and junior libero Natalie Hagglund have consistently performed well for the team, Haley used the Colorado match to experiment with his younger players, particularly freshman middle blocker Alicia Ogoms and freshman setter Cinnamon Sary, and stressed the need to give them more playing time.
“Cinnamon is going to be really good, there’s no question,” Haley said. “If she can provide a little more spark, we have a chance to win the national championship. She wants to contribute, so there’s no sense in holding her back, and the team’s comfortable with her in the lineup.”
As the team gears up to battle the Huskies and avenge last month’s loss, Haley stressed the need to focus on the specifics of Washington’s attack.
“We run first tempo, while Washington runs 1.5 tempo in the middle,” Haley said. “They run quicker outside while we run quicker in the middle. The tempos are different but we need to keep improving and become comfortable with our system. Everyone’s feeling like they’re getting better and their focus is high, so we’re in good shape.”