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Women Of Troy Are Their Own Toughest Opponent

Jodee Sullivan |
November 28, 2014 | 1:45 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

Samantha Bricio is the star player for USC (Charlie Magovern/Neon Tommy).
Samantha Bricio is the star player for USC (Charlie Magovern/Neon Tommy).
With such a talented group of girls under the direction of a successful head coach, one would imagine the Women of Troy to have dominated their opponents this season, but they have fallen way short of that fantasy. 

While a 15-14 record isn’t horrible (it puts them at #23 in the NCAA Women’s Volleyball RPI rankings), the Women of Troy are 8-11 in conference play and 4-8 at home. Sitting #23 isn’t a bad look, but it’s generous considering they are ranked above teams with significantly better records - USC began their season at #5, a ranking that better fit the talent and potential of the team.

After a recent win over #14 Arizona, USC is guaranteed a .500 record, which makes them eligible for NCAA postseason tournament selection. Hopefully, the Women of Troy can produce tournament play that better reflects their potential and talent compared to their regular season record. 

Head coach Mick Haley and the team mainly look to junior outside hitter Samantha Bricio for leadership on the court. While she is easily the team’s best player, and arguably one of the best in the conference, it’s hard to produce consistent wins when relying on only one player all of the time. 

With 462 kills, 77 aces, 311 digs and 567 points on the season, there’s no doubt that Bricio is the heart of the team. With 205 aces in her career, she currently holds the Pac-12 record. She leads all but one of those categories by an overwhelming margin (sophomore libero Taylor Whittingham leads with 514 digs). The second most productive player is sophomore outside hitter Ebony Nwanebu with 296 kills, 15 aces, 134 digs, and 336.5 points on the season. When both Bricio and Nwanebu are on fire, the Women of Troy are generally unstoppable. 

However, those two could only carry the team so far. The middle position, led by junior Alicia Ogoms and senior Hannah Schraer, was continually successful when used in the attack, yet it was underutilized all season. 

As a team, USC leads their opponents in kills, aces and blocks, so in looking at statistics alone, it would make sense that USC should have a better record, but volleyball is much more than a statistics game.

Consistency, fatigue, and lack of leadership have been constant struggles for the team throughout the season. Arguably, those three points are the reason USC has lost matches where it should have won. 

SEE ALSO: Women Of Troy Suffer Two Losses In One Week

On the point of consistency, USC has played around with a couple different starting rotations throughout the season. The season started with senior setter Hayley Crone and sophomore setter Alice Pizzasegola supporting the offense. 

As the season progressed, Crone saw a significant decrease in her number of sets. Instead, senior outside hitter Emily Young stepped in as the second setter, but Pizzasegola still took the majority of the sets. 

Along with that, the offensive attack was varied between a multitude of players. Since opening their season with six straight wins using a varied offense, USC has limited the number of attackers. While that isn’t necessarily a strong reason for their lack of consistency, it’s merely one factor.

The demands of school, exams and an unfavorable Pac-12 TV schedule all play a factor into the effect of fatigue on the Women of Troy, but every Pac-12 team experiences this. The issue for USC lies in the fact that by relying mainly on Bricio for its offense, the team suffers when she is fatigued; and when both Bricio and Nwanebu are fatigued, the offense is not productive at all. 

When fatigue is a factor in their game play, the Women of Troy put up more errors than usual, which are free points for their opponents. The combination of a less productive offense and free points for the opponents makes it incredibly hard for them to pull out a win. 

The key factor for the Women of Troy’s underperformance this season is the leadership, or lack there of, on the court. 

Mick Haley has said that the team needs leadership on the court to be successful (Charlie Magovern/Neon Tommy).
Mick Haley has said that the team needs leadership on the court to be successful (Charlie Magovern/Neon Tommy).
Haley has said time and time again that the team needs leadership on the court to win in a conference as tight and competitive as the Pac-12. The team’s captain is Crone who saw a decrease in court time as the season progressed. So instead of looking to their captain, the team looked to Bricio for leadership.

That isn’t normally an issue when Bricio is on fire in the game—it’s easy to follow her at times like that. However, Bricio is only 20 and English is her second language

SEE ALSO: Bricio Dominant For Women of Troy In Straight Set Victory

Now, Haley has said throughout the season that he asks a lot from Bricio and that she’s taking on everything he asks from her, but the leadership role should have been taken on by an additional player, especially considering the captain spent a significant time off the court as the season carried on. 

Leadership plays a role in all sports, obviously, but, in volleyball especially, winning is a lot easier when a team can come together and rally around the leadership of one or two girls on the court. 

Essentially, the Women of Troy beat themselves more than their opponents beat them. A team could have the best talent and all of the potential in the world, but when they have to beat both their opponent and themselves each match, it becomes incredibly difficult to harness that talent and potential to win. 

While they may have had an underwhelming season this year, the Women of Troy are a young team and if they can find leadership and overcome beating themselves, then they will have a bright future ahead of them.

Hopefully, the Women of Troy can find the strength to win in the tournament, but if not, they will have the offseason to reflect, prepare and be ready to reclaim their dominance next season. 

Reach Staff Reporter Jodee Sullivan here and on Twitter here.



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