The No. 7 USC women’s volleyball team did not enter this weekend’s games at the Galen Center simply to win — it wanted to make a statement. A Friday night matchup against a No. 1 Washington team that was responsible for one of USC’s three losses was apparently the perfect opportunity for redemption.
The Women of Troy played arguably their most thrilling game of the season Friday, knocking down the Huskies in five grueling sets before a sweep of the Washington State Cougars on Saturday night. The victories boost No. 7 USC’s record to 21-3 overall and 9-3 in Pac-12 play.
“Just to win these games is extremely good,” USC coach Mick Haley said. “We wanted to get better as a team, and I think we accomplished that. We also got our confidence up to a pretty good level.”
Though the Cougars gave their all Saturday night, they simply couldn’t match up with the Women of Troy, who recorded their 15th sweep of the season with a 25-13, 25-17, 25-18 victory. They were particularly dominant in the first set, as the Women of Troy built an insurmountable 21-9 lead before freshman middle blocker Alicia Ogoms knocked down consecutive kills to seal the set.
The second set was a similar story, as Shaw recorded a kill to put USC up 19-9. The Cougars rebounded to make it close, but Young notched consecutive kills before an attack error gave the Women of Troy the set. The hosts put on a hitting clinic, attacking at a .600 clip in the opening frame before hitting .316 in the middle set.
The final set was much tighter, as the Cougars rebounded from a 15-8 hole to come to within 16-15. The Women of Troy, however, went on a 6-1 run, highlighted by three alternating Shaw kills, the last of which sealed the match for the Women of Troy.
“We played a lot of people, and we got to practice the game situations and be successful,” Haley said. “I felt like we had a successful weekend after practicing to our strengths.”
Against the Huskies, the Women of Troy were once again paced by freshman outside hitter Samantha Bricio, who took advantage of the five-set match by registering a career-high 30 kills and 12 digs to help take out the Huskies. Throughout both games, though, junior outside hitter Sara Shaw rose to center stage. After recording 15 kills and a career high 30 digs against Washington, she posted a career-high 18 kills against the Cougars, notching a .643 hitting percentage with no errors.
“The Washington match was definitely a tough one for us, but I think it was a good five games,” Shaw said. “Coming back to win that match definitely boosted our confidence.”
Against the Huskies, the Women of Troy twice had to come back from deficits to win, an unfamiliar situation considering the dominance with which they’ve been able to put opponents away from the start. After falling behind 2-1, the Women of Troy fought hard during the fourth set, taking the Huskies to an 18-all tie before registering four straight points to go up 22-20. Bricio then knocked down a powerful kill to take the set 25-23 and tie the match at two apiece.
It was only fitting that the fifth and final set was as close as the others, as the teams were tied at eight before the Women of Troy ran away with it. Senior opposite Katie Fuller knocked down a kill for a 13-9 lead, after which junior libero Natalie Hagglund and sophomore setter Emily Young combined to set up Bricio for a kill to end the set 15-10 and claim the match for the hosts.
“When we left Washington, we felt like we should have won, even though they beat us 3-0 up there,” Haley said. “We weren’t in sync in that match. I thought that we could have won in three [sets] over here, but we made too many errors in the beginning. However, as we kept playing we got more and more confident, so winning in five was fine.”
After the perfect, two-week homestand, the Women of Troy will again hit the road, with games at Arizona State and Arizona this weekend.
“Winning on the road is extremely important for us, because we have six of our ten matches on the road in the second round,” Haley said. “We’ll take them one at a time, and we need to take them seriously and prepare for that.”