No. 1 USC sweeps Oregon for tenth straight win

The Women of Troy notched their tenth straight victory Sunday afternoon, rolling past rival Oregon 3-0 (25-23, 25-18, 26-24) to improve to 16-1, one win shy of matching the 2006 squad for the best start to a season in school history (17-1).

“I thought we played outstanding volleyball today,” USC head coach Mick Haley said. “The players executed the game plan extremely well and made me very proud of the hard work they’ve put in.”

USC improved to 48-9 all-time against the Ducks and, more importantly, avenged a tough 3-0 loss at the Galen Center last September. Freshman outside hitter Ebony Nwanebu recorded a team-high 11 kills to go along with three blocks. Sophomore outside hitter Samantha Bricio, who in Haley’s words “dominated” Friday against the Beavers, added nine kills, three blocks and another service ace. Senior libero Natalie Hagglund anchored the defense with another strong outing, posting 21 digs, tallying at least 20 digs for the fifth time this season.

Unlike the OSU match, USC was tested heavily from the beginning, as Oregon turned a 7-4 deficit into a 13-11 lead. The Women of Troy went on a 4-0 run and later pushed ahead 19-16 on senior middle blocker Alexis Olgard’s kill, but the Ducks came back to tie it at 20. USC then pulled away, as Nwanebu knocked down a kill to make it 24-22 before sealing the set 25-23 with a kill off of an Oregon block.

The second set remained contentious early on, as the two sides played to ties of 8 and 10. After back-and-forth play, USC took a 19-16 lead after Bricio and junior middle blocker Hannah Schraer notched back-to-back kills. The Ducks closed to within 23-17, but Nwanebu recorded another kill and Bricio slammed her 44th ace of the season to clinch the set at 25-18.

The Women of Troy appeared to be running away with the third set, as they held a 10-5 advantage after a kill by Schraer. USC then pushed ahead to 21-13 on a Bricio kill from the back and looked to be in control, but the Ducks impressively stormed back and recorded a stunning nine straight points to take a 22-21 lead. Oregon then went up 24-23, but USC avoided a fourth set with back-to-back blocks and an Oregon error that sealed their 10th straight win of the season.

“Oregon is such a top team, and they beat us 3-0 in our gym last year,” Hagglund said. “We had a lack of focus in the third set, but I think it was very important overall that we executed and finished the game in that situation.”

The victory served as the 1,200th career victory in Haley’s 35-year career. USC also improved to a stellar 85-7 in matches as the No. 1-ranked team and are 8-0 in the state of Oregon since 2008. The 10-game winning streak is the longest since USC opened the 2012 season with 13 consecutive victories.

USC will hit the road again this week for matches against Arizona State Friday and Arizona Sunday.


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