Cougar Attack Stuns No. 4 USC in Five-Set Thriller

    Several Trojans put up strong performances but USC couldn't overcome Washington State in a 3-2 upset loss on the road.

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    Nov. 17, 2013

    Final Stats |  Notes | Box Score (PDF) Get Acrobat Reader

    PULLMAN, Wash. - The fourth-ranked USC women's volleyball team (22-5, 12-4 Pac-12) had the rug pulled out from under it as Washington State (17-12, 4-12) fought back from two sets down to claim a five-set victory, 11-25, 17-25, 25-22, 25-22, 21-19, and upset the Women of Troy at Bohler Gymnasium on Sunday, Nov. 17.

    The Cougars snapped an eight-match losing streak (since 2009) to the Trojans and sent USC to its first back-to-back losses since Sept. 21-28, 2012. In just the fifth five-set match in series history, Washington State produced the same result as the last five-set meeting between the two teams in 2004 when the Cougars pulled off a 17-15 win in the fifth to upset a sixth-ranked USC at Bohler Gym in Pullman.

    USC received several admirable individual performances from players and out-hit (.228 to .128) and out-blocked (19 to 12) the Cougars, but WSU earned just enough points and got the ball to drop at the right moments to secure the upset.

    Sophomore outside hitter Samantha Bricio led all players with 25.0 points as she posted a season-high mark with 22 kills (4e, 61att) with a .295 hitting percentage. Bricio logged her ninth double-double this season (20th of her career) as she picked up 15 digs to go with three blocks and a service ace. Freshman outside hitter Ebony Nwanebu had a solid match as she put up 20 kills (6e) on 55 swings for a .255 hitting rate and collected eight digs.

    Defensively, senior libero Natalie Hagglund led all players with 32 digs (one of four Trojans in double digits) and had seven assists. It was the 10th time in her career that Hagglund has put up 30 digs or more in a single match. At the net, senior middle blocker Alexis Olgard put up a wall to earn a career-high 12 blocks. She had seven kills (3e, 23att, .174) but was held below her season average with a .174 hitting rate.

    Junior setter Hayley Crone dished out 33 assists and matched her career high with 18 digs while freshman setter Alice Pizzasegola had 28 assists and nine digs. It was Crone's second double-double of the season and the 13th of her career. Senior outside hitter Sara Shaw had nine kills to go with a season-high 19 digs and a career-high seven blocks while freshman outside Elise Ruddins logged nine kills (1e, 24att) for a .333 hitting percentage. Junior middle blocker Hannah Schraer added seven kills (2e, 18att, .278) and five blocks.

    For the Cougars, a balanced attack and five players in double-digits for digs did the trick. Jaicee Harris had 11 kills (4e, 43att, .163) and put up 28 digs to lead WSU. Freshman Kyra Holt had 13 kills (7e, 60att) and added 19 digs and four blocks. Libero Kate Sommer had 26 digs to stem the Trojan offense but setter Haley MacDonald came in off the bench to produce a double-double with 33 assists and 13 digs. Tani Stephens had 12 digs for the Cougars. On offense, the Cougars got a lot out of middle Marcelina Glab who had 12 kills (5e, 27att, .259) and seven blocks. Hailey Bethune was the big surprise as she spurred a major WSU run and finished with 10 kills (6e, 28att, .143) in the match.

    The Trojans were unstoppable in the opening set and produced 18 kills (2e) on 37 swings for a .432 hitting percentage. USC earned sideout on 83 percent of its opportunities to cruise to an uneventful 25-11 victory. The Cougars were in it for but a moment and trailed by just two at 8-6 when Holt earned a kill, but the Trojans had an outburst of seven straight points to climb in front, 15-6. Though that run, Crone's serves helped USC get three kills from Schraer, two from Nwanebu, and one from Bricio. The Cougars couldn't get going and got just six kills (6e) on 37 attacks for a .000 hitting rate. WSU stayed within eight on a kill by Bethune at 18-10, but the Trojans used it to finish off the set with a 7-1 run as Shaw took a set from Hagglund and terminated out of the back row to wrap things up.

    The Trojans spotted Washington State a quick 3-0 lead in the second set, and went down by five points, 6-1, in a hurry. Unfazed, USC stayed the course and chipped away at the Cougars until three straight kills by Olgard, Bricio, and Ruddins put the Trojans in front, 9-8. The teams went back and forth for a bit but a pair of back-to-back blocks helped USC begin to pull away at 16-12. The Trojans finished with six blocks in the second frame and went up by six at 19-13 when Olgard and Shaw rejected a shot by Emmy Allen. Bricio's roll shot hit the ground to get USC up by seven points at 22-15 and her tool shot gave the Trojans the last point in a 25-17 second-set win. USC hit .324 in the second set with 15 kills (5e) on 37 attacks and used its block to hold the Cougars to a .026 hitting rate (10k, 9e) on 38 swings.

    Just like it did in the second set, USC spotted the Cougars a 3-0 lead to open up, but this time it proved costly as WSU held on and never allowed the Trojans to pull even. Despite a late charge from the Trojans, Washington State completed a 25-22 win to snap a 24-set winning streak held by USC since 2009. The Trojans did what they could to slow the Cougars and had three blocks in the span of seven rallies, but still WSU went ahead by five points at 12-7 on a kill by Harris. Washington State got three straight points to lead, 20-12, but USC began to mount a comeback as Bricio put away back-to-back kills. A couple of WSU errors helped keep the Trojans' run going as USC pulled within two at 22-20 on a crosscourt kill by Nwanebu. The Cougars had a response and got a kill from Bethune, but it was a USC error that put WSU at set point. Nwanebu and Shaw saved a pair with back-to-back kills, but Holt put an end to the Trojans' hopes for a sweep when she tooled their block for the final point. USC was held to a .122 hitting percentage on 49 attempts (14k, 8e) while the Cougars did one better than the Trojans at .167 (14k, 7e) on 42 attacks.

    Like a running theme, the Trojans again gave up the first three points of the fourth set and put the Cougars in position to knot the match at two-all. This time, USC caught up and evened things at five all when Nwanebu took a set from Hagglund to terminate. That was a turning point for WSU as MacDonald dumped her pass on the next rally to spark a 7-0 run and put the Cougars up, 12-5, on back-to-back kills from Harris. Bricio stopped the bleeding with her kill and got USC back on track before a cross-court shot by Ruddins earned a point and pulled the Trojans within three at 16-13. Still down, USC turned to Nwanebu who broke out her tool belt and earned two straight points off Cougar hands and then teamed with Olgard to block Harris to keep USC within three points at 21-18. Shaw's roll shot found the back corner of the court for a point and made the score 21-19, but the Cougars kept coming and earned the next two points before Nwanebu saved the day on a cut-shot kill. USC used blocks to come within two again at 23-21, and 24-22, but Holt had had enough when she rose up to terminate a rally for the 25-22 win. USC's hitting improved to .204 in the fourth set with 15 kills (5e) on 49 attempts but the Cougars scored 20 of their points on kills with six errors on 56 attempts for a .250 rate.

    USC appeared to have learned from its mistakes as it rolled out to a 4-1 lead to open set five. The Cougars fought valiantly and stayed within striking distance until Ruddins' kill made it 10-7. Bricio tooled the block on the next rally and stepped inside to bounce a shot off the ground for a 12-7 lead. Her next tool shot was the last point in a 4-0 USC run but Ruddins went down the line for a kill to set the Trojans up with six match points at 14-8. It was just one point too few as Holt went down the line for a score to send Sommer to the service line. Sommer served the next six rallies including two aces for a 6-0 run that was topped with another kill by Holt. Crone set Schraer on a slide to give the Trojans match point at 15-14 again, but the Cougars kept fighting back to tie the score five more times. WSU scored the final three points to go from down, 19-18, and win, 21-19. Both teams had 12 kills and six errors in the final frame. USC attacked 47 times for a .128 hitting rate while WSU attacked 45 times and finished with a .133 percentage.

    The Trojans return to Southern California for the final four matches of the regular season and will host Arizona (Nov. 22) and Arizona State (Nov. 24) at the Galen Center, this weekend. Please visit for more information and a complete schedule and results.


    • USC dropped to 44-13 in its all-time series with Washington State and had an eight-match winning streak snapped that had lasted since 2009.
    • The Trojans fell to 17-11 in all-time matches in Pullman, Wash.
    • The Women of Troy lost both matches on its regular-season trip to the state of Washington for the first time since 2009 and for just the fifth time in program history (1986, ‘88, ‘95, ‘09).
    • This is just the fifth time in 57 meetings that USC and WSU have gone to five sets. The Cougars now lead, 3-2, in five-set matches against USC and are 3-1 when in Pullman. The last time the teams went five was in 2004 when WSU won, 17-15, in the fifth set in Bohler Gymnasium to upset a sixth-ranked USC.
    • USC loses back-to-back matches for the first time, this season, and for the first time since Sept. 21-28, 2012.
    • Sophomore OH Samantha Bricio had one service ace to move into a sixth place alone for career aces at USC (108). It is her 25th match this season with at least one service ace.
    • Bricio logged her ninth double-double this season and the 20th of her career (22 kills and 15 digs).
    • Bricio’s 22 kills are a season-high mark.
    • Senior MB Alexis Olgard put up a career-high 12 blocks (one solo) and a career-high 11 block assists.
    • Senior libero Natalie Hagglund produced her 10th career 30-dig performance with 32.
    • Hagglund’s 510 digs this season are the sixth-highest single-season mark by a Trojan and ties with Alli Hillgren (2009). Hagglund now owns four of the top ten single-season records for digs in USC history.