Women of Troy open against North Carolina
The USC women’s volleyball team will be put to the test early as they host two of the nation’s finest teams at the Women of Troy Baden Invitational this Friday and Saturday.
The No. 22-ranked Women of Troy will open the 2015 regular season with matches against No. 7-ranked North Carolina and No. 11-ranked BYU at the Galen Center.
In addition, USC will be meeting Chicago State for the first time in the program’s history.
With two national powerhouses coming to Troy, head coach Mick Haley knows that his team has their work cut out for them.
“We’ve got two great tests ahead of us so it’s a heck of a weekend for us to start out this way but everybody’s really excited for the season to start,” Haley said. “There’s some apprehension in that this is a completely different team from last year, and we really haven’t played anybody yet so we’re in some uncharted waters right now, but I really like our players.”
As always, USC will be led by senior captain and two-time AVCA All-American outside hitter Samantha Bricio.
Bricio has been a mainstay in the USC lineup since she first came to Los Angeles as a freshman in 2012, and she hopes to leave her mark in her final season donning the cardinal and gold.
There’s a number of other returning players who will need to step up this year as well, according to Haley.
“Our sophomore Brittany Abercrombie on the right side is really ready to come into her own and we need Alicia Ogoms to be a shutdown middle blocker,” Haley said. “Junior setter Alice Pizzasegola needs to come into her own too this year, and Taylor Whittingham has demonstrated that she can be one of the better liberos, so we have the pieces, we just need to put them together.”
One of those pieces mentioned is junior libero Taylor Whittingham, who earned AVCA All-America Honorable Mention last season in her first year as a starter.
Like Haley, Whittingham is anxious for the season to start, noting that the culture in the gym is much different compared to last year.
“We’re really excited to get started, it’s a new season, a new team, a new system,” Whittingham said. “We have some fresh faces coming in, we’re really physical, we’re tall and our athleticism is really helping us in this new system, so we want to go out there and do our best to win every single game.”
Haley will also be showcasing a revamped lineup with a number of different players inserted into starting roles. Two of the newcomers making their Trojan debuts are freshmen Alyse Ford and Baylee Johnson.
Ford, an athletic 5’10” outside hitter with a big vertical leap, and Johnson, a physical 6’0” setter and hitter combo at the net, will both see significant playing time to start their USC careers.
USC will open up its season by taking on ACC powerhouse North Carolina on Friday at 8 p.m.
The Tarheels eliminated the Women of Troy in the second round of last year’s NCAA tournament with a 3-1 win in Chapel Hill, but now that USC will be at home in the friendly confines of the Galen Center, the Women of Troy are looking to avenge that season-ending loss.
On Saturday, USC will face off against two Cougar teams. The first match of the day will be against Chicago State at 10 a.m.
The Cougars are coming off a 2014 season in which they finished with a 6-24 overall record, and it will be the first ever meeting between the two teams.
Later that night, USC will wrap up the Baden Invitational with a match against 2014 NCAA runner-up and current No. 11-ranked BYU.
The last time these two teams met, USC eliminated the Cougars in the 2013 NCAA regional semifinal held at the Galen Center.
Bricio had a season high of 30.0 points in the 3-1 win as USC improved to 11-5 all-time against BYU and 6-1 in postseason matches against the Cougars.
BYU , however, is coming off a 2014 season in which they pulled off an improbable run, being the first unseeded team to make it all the way to the national championship game before they fell to Penn State.
The BYU Cougars and Women of Troy face off at 8 p.m. and the match will broadcast on the Pac-12 Networks.
It will be a challenging weekend for the Women of Troy with a tough slate of competitors ahead, but a good showing against two of the nation’s most accomplished programs could provide some early season confidence for Mick Haley and his new squad.
“This type of competition we have is competition that we expect to beat if we want to do anything in the NCAA tournament come December, so this is a true test,” Haley said. “We have good players, and if we can get them to play together and trust each other, they’re good enough to beat anyone in the country on any given night.”