Unbeaten Women of Troy host USC Classic

first_imgThe USC women’s volleyball team began the season with two road tournaments, winning all three games in each event. Now, the No. 6 Women of Troy (6-0) look to defend their home court as they host the USC Classic on Thursday and Friday at the Galen Center.Serial killer · Junior outside hitter Samantha Bricio has started the year on a high note, recording 66 kills in the team’s first six games. – Ralph Cheung | Daily Trojan The team will face Texas A&M on Thursday and No. 20 Florida on Friday. No. 13 San Diego will also compete in the tournament, but they are slated to play only Texas A&M and Florida.Despite concerns regarding the team’s youth, the Women of Troy already dominated both the Community Bankers Volleyball Classic in Stockton, California and the Commonwealth Classic in Lexington, Kentucky this season. In three of their six matches, the Women of Troy didn’t give up a single set. In addition, the Women of Troy have given up two sets in a match to an opponent only once so far this season, against the host Pacific Tigers in the Community Bankers Volleyball Classic.Head coach Mick Haley was impressed with his team’s performance in Kentucky and believes they are ready for their home tournament this weekend.“All of the competition was as good or better than the competition we played the week before [in the Community Bankers Volleyball Classic],” Haley said. “We came out of there with three wins. We only lost one set. This competition this week probably is going to be as good.”Haley also said that finally playing at home will help his team.“For the players, it’s a fresh breath of air,” Haley said. “They get to sleep in their own beds. They’re right here on campus [and] they get to play in front of their own fans. For them, it’s a real treat.”The Women of Troy showed why they are ranked No. 6 in the nation in the two tournaments, but Haley says there are still changes that need to be made.“We’re growing and we’re getting better,” Haley said. “But we’re still a work in progress.”So far this season, USC has received major contributions from a number of players. Junior outside hitter Samantha Bricio leads the team so far this season with 66 kills and has recorded more than half of the team’s service aces with 20. Bricio also has been strong on defense, recording the fourth-most digs so far this season for the Women of Troy with 56.Sophomore outside hitter Ebony Nwanebu made her season debut on the volleyball court during the Women of Troy’s game against Kentucky in the Commonwealth Classic, and she started to make an impact almost immediately. In only three games this season, Nwanebu already ranks fourth on the team in kills with 37, fourth in hitting percentage at .390 and owns the highest kills per set average on the team at 3.70.The Lucas, Texas native said she missed her time on the court and is glad to be contributing again.“It feels awesome,” said Nwanebu. “I didn’t realize how much I would miss it until I was actually playing again. I hope to never have an injury like that again. It was awful sitting out for that long. The girls were just amazing. Through everything, they supported me.”Nwanebu also said her leadership role with the team is mainly to help her teammates bond more.“I feel like my leadership is just to try to make them feel more part of the team,” she said. “I just try to get their confidence up like the older girls did for me.”Other notable players on the team that have made a difference early on include senior setter Hayley Crone, sophomore setter Alice Pizzasegola, freshman outside hitter Lauryn Gillis and sophomore libero Taylor Whittingham. Crone and Pizzasegola have excelled at their position, setting up 248 kills combined this season.Even more impressive is that those 248 assists are more than the total amount of assists USC has allowed from all their opponents combined this season. Gillis currently ranks second in both kills and digs for the Women of Troy with 53 and 63, respectively. Whittingham leads the team in digs with 67, in addition to 11 assists.Gillis says she had a great time on the six-game road trip to begin the season.“I think it was fun,” Gillis said. “I liked going on the road because there is a lot more pressure at home. So, [at] away games, you can just kind of let go.”USC is riding momentum heading into their home tournament this weekend, but winning their own tournament will not be an easy task. Texas A&M holds a 5-1 record and a three game winning streak coming into this tournament. With that said, Texas A&M has likely done well this season in part due to the strength of their schedule. In fact, the six teams Texas A&M has faced this season combine for 12 wins and 23 losses.Texas A&M might also be considered the weakest team in this tournament because they are the only team competing that is not nationally ranked.When they play Texas A&M, the Women of Troy will have to keep an eye on Angela Lowak and Ashlie Reasor. Lowak leads Texas A&M in kills with 57 and has the third-most amount of digs on the team with 49. Reasor has also been a major contributor to Texas A&M, recording 46 kills and 25 digs so far this year.No. 10 Florida has dropped its last two games, but holds a 3-2 record. The team’s two losses were against Florida State and Texas, two top-10 teams.When the Women of Troy play Florida, the focus will be on containing setters Alex Holston and Mackenzie Dagostino. Holston leads her team in kills with 63 and Dagostino has nearly all of her team’s assists this season with 213. Dagostino also has the third-most digs on Florida with 40.San Diego, though they won’t face the Women of Troy, will surely cause problems for Texas A&M and Florida. The Toreros boast a 5-1 record and are currently on a four-game winning streak. Middle hitter Alaysia Brown, setter Jianna Bonomi and outside hitter Sandra Lozic will be the players to watch on San Diego.Brown leads her team in kills with 69 and is third on the team in hitting percentage at .321. Bonomi has collected a team-leading 137 assists  and ranks second on the team in digs with 57. Lozic ranks third on the team in both kills with 47 and digs with 45.It definitely won’t be an easy task to win this weekend for the Women of Troy, but Haley is ready for it based on how his team played last week.“I think Kentucky plays evenly with [Texas] A&M and challenges Florida a bit,” Haley said. “Florida is a very athletic team and they’ll be fun to watch. I think this is another good challenge for us.”last_img

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