Bateman Shines As USC Women Sweep Trojan Invitational
“I’m lucky to have so many people that can come in and [produce],” Bateman said. “It’s pretty easy to get rhythm with these hitters because they are so versatile and don’t need perfect sets. It just makes my job that much easier.”
But there’s a reason it was the humble Bateman who took home MVP honors. She was the constant as the Trojans swept Loyola Marymount and Bucknell, and defeated Cal State Fullerton in four sets to begin the season 3-0 for the first time since their Final Four run in 2007.
Bateman played in all 10 sets and dished out 130 of the team’s 138 assists during the tournament, including a career-high 66 in the Saturday nightcap against Cal State Fullerton. She also was second on the team with 33 digs, including a career-high 18 Saturday against the Titans.
“She deserved the MVP. She had a heck of a tournament and she continues to get better,” head coach Mick Haley said. “Last year she was the number one setter in assists per game in the country. With the addition of the offense we’ve acquired with our incoming recruits, we feel those numbers are going to go up.”
USC finished 22-10 last year after an up-and-down season.
In between 11-game and seven-game winning streaks, the Trojans lost seven of nine conference games. They even slipped to a new low under Haley, losing four consecutive matches for the first time in his nine seasons as USC head coach.
After losing to Hawai’i in the second round of the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive season, Haley reloaded his team with one of the country's most impressive recruiting classes. Ranked No. 1 in the nation by Prep Volleyball, the class includes five of Prep Volleyball’s Top 100 with three of those being ranked in the top 11.
Haley wasn’t afraid to throw the youngsters right into the fire. He used all fourteen active players in at least two of the three matches played.
Four freshmen earned starts while libero Natalie Hagglund also played in all 10 sets and led the team with 39 digs.
Six-foot-four Falyn Fonoimoana showed why she was the No. 1 ranked prospect in the nation, finishing with 24 kills and the second-best hitting percentage among outside hitters. Only freshman Kirby Burnham finished better than Fonoimoana, hitting at a .387 clip from the wing.
In limited time in the middle, 6-foot-5 freshman Alexis Olgard averaged a block per set to lead the team and added 10 kills,
including two emphatic spikes late in the fourth and final set against Cal State Fullerton.
“The freshmen are gaining confidence and that's one of the reasons for playing so many players early on in the season,” Haley said. “Kendall (Bateman) is really getting comfortable with everyone, so it's not hurting her timing. What usually goes haywire is the passing and…we are certainly doing ok in that regard.”
Bateman praised the work ethic of the freshman group and said she believes this team has national championship-caliber talent.
“Every girl on our team believes we can get [to the national championship],” she said.
With junior stalwarts Alex Jupiter (29 kills, 8 aces, 17 digs) and Lauren Williams (25 kills, .622 hitting percentage) leading the offensive attack, Bateman said the team’s main need for improvement will be on the defensive side.
“Our offense is pretty good, but we really need to focus on blocking, playing defense behind the blocking and getting the front and back lines to play together.”
2010 Luxe City Center Trojan Invitational All-Tournament Team:
Bucknell - Heidi Kamp
LMU - Jasmine Rankins, Felicia Arriola
Fullerton - Erin Saddler, Cami Croteau
USC - Alex Jupiter, Lauren Williams, Kendall Bateman (MVP)
To reach reporter Shotgun Spratling, click here.