USC looks to keep its five-game win streak alive

With the first half of their Pac-12 schedule in the books, the USC women’s volleyball team has overcome early struggles to post a five-game winning streak and regain the confidence which they used to dominate their opponents. But as they embark on a four-game road trip and begin the second half of competition, the Women of Troy are by no means out of the woods yet.

The No.6 ranked Women of Troy start an important trip in the desert this weekend, squaring off against Arizona State on Friday night before a bout with Arizona on Sunday morning. Though the Sun Devils (15-10) and Wildcats (12-11) are both above .500 overall, they have struggled in Pac-12 competition, posting identical 4-8 records.

Head Coach Mick Haley stressed not only the importance of winning on the road, but also avoiding complacency.

“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. “Arizona State was not happy that they lost here, and [the coach] vowed that they’d give us a great battle this time, so we have to take that seriously and prepare for that.”

Coming into last weekend, the Women of Troy simply wanted to get better, and they accomplished that with consecutive wins over Washington and Washington State. More importantly, the five-set victory over the Huskies was revenge for the sweep the Women of Troy suffered on their trip to Washington, one of their three Pac-12 losses this season.

“I thought it was a good performance. When we left Washington, we felt like we should have won, even though they beat us 3-0,” Haley said. “We felt like we weren’t in sync, and we made too many errors here to win it 3-0. But we kept gaining more and more confidence as the match progressed, so I think winning in five games is fine.”

The Women of Troy twice overcame deficits to win Friday’s match, taking the final two sets to turn back a 2-1 hole (23-25, 25-22, 22-25, 25-23, 15-10). Freshman outside hitter Samantha Bricio put on another outstanding performance, registering a career-high 30 kills along with 12 digs for her seventh double-double. Sophomore setter Hayley Crone notched 51 assists and junior libero Natalie Hagglund recorded a career-high 34 digs to anchor the defense.

USC made quick work of a weaker Washington State team Saturday, winning 25-13, 25-17, 25-18 for its 15th sweep of the season. This time, it was outside hitter Sara Shaw’s turn to shine, as the junior recorded a career-high 18 kills and attacked at a .643 clip without any errors.

“Washington was definitely a tough match, but I think it was good that it went five games, because we hadn’t played one like that all year,” Shaw said. “Washington State also came out and played hard, and I think the wins are good for our confidence as we go on the road.”

Haley believes that the upcoming road games are crucial to the season.

“The most important thing is that we have to take these games seriously and prepare for them well,” Haley said. “Winning on the road is an entirely different situation, and these teams are going to put forth a much better effort, so we need to prepare adequately.”

The Women of Troy will conclude their road trip next weekend with matches against Utah and Colorado.