Women of Troy prepare for final home stand

first_imgAfter a long road trip to Colorado and Utah that resulted in a win and a loss, the USC women’s volleyball team returns home to play the No. 1 team in the country in Stanford on Wednesday as well as Cal on Friday.Elder Emily · Outside hitter Emily Young will be one of USC’s three seniors honored before the match against California on Friday. – Brian ji | Daily TrojanDuring the road trip, then-No. 19 USC (14-10, 7-7 Pac-12) struggled against unranked Utah, eventually falling 17-25, 22-25, 24-26. The Women of Troy rebounded with a sweep of their own, defeating then-No. 21 Colorado 25-23, 27-25, 25-22.Now USC has its toughest home test of the season against undefeated Stanford (24-0, 14-0), less than a month after a hard-fought battle between the two teams in Palo Alto, California. In that match, the Women of Troy lost in four sets but each set was extremely competitive.Stanford runs a 5-1 offense with junior Madi Bugg as the only setter on the court. Bugg does an effective job of spreading the ball around to all of the Cardinal’s hitters, serving to balance the offense. Middle blocker Inky Ajanaku and junior outside hitter Jordan Burgess drive the team’s offense. Ajanaku is one of the nation’s best players, averaging 1.18 blocks per set and 3.54 kills per set.USC junior middle blocker Alicia Ogoms and senior middle blocker Hannah Schraer will have the tough task of slowing down Ajanaku, but are confident in their abilities.“Well I showed that I am capable of doing that,” Ogoms said. “[Ajanuaku] has been All-American for two years in a row. I just have to focus on what I can do more than what she will do.”Burgess, on the other hand, has received 752 sets this season and is Stanford’s workhorse on the outside. She has a .269 hitting percentage and 277 kills on the season. The Women of Troy will have to serve Burgess tough in order to knock her off her game and play solid defense when she swings.USC head coach Mick Haley knows that this will be a tough match for the team, especially with how strong Stanford is in all facets of the game.“They have had the same lineup for three years and they are trying to be low error,” Haley said. “They also set the middle more than other teams. They set the middle 57 times against us last time.”On Friday, USC finishes its last homestand of the season against the Cal Golden Bears, who are still looking for their first conference win. In the last seven meetings between the two teams, USC has won all seven and hope to improve to 8-0. This match will also be senior night for setter Hayley Crone and outside hitter Emily Young as well as Schraer.The Golden Bears have struggled offensively, posting a hitting percentage of only .209. Though Cal has a tough time getting its offense going, the Women of Troy still have to be wary of senior outside hitter Christina Higgins and junior middle blocker Lillian Schonewise.Higgins has been the Bears’ best hitter, with 349 kills overall and an average of 3.75 kills per set. Schonewise has been the more consistent offensive threat with a .322 hitting percentage.The Women of Troy have to bring their A-game for both opponents, as they cannot afford another loss. They will continue to rely heavily on junior outside hitter Samantha Bricio, who has 367 kills, and sophomore outside hitter Ebony Nwanebu, who averages 3.07 kills per set.“I can just help my team by playing good defense in order to score points,” Bricio said. “What I need to get better at is my serving. If I stop worrying about making an error serving, it will help our team a lot.”To complement its offense, USC needs to control the net with a strong blocking presence. Schraer and Ogoms will have to wreak havoc up at the net in order to give the Women of Troy a chance at a Bay Area sweep.There are only six matches left in the season, and the Women of Troy hope to improve their resume for the NCAA tournament in December. With only two wins against ranked opponents, Kentucky and Colorado, the Women of Troy hope to add Stanford to that list starting at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday.last_img