This is a guest column per Alejandro Madrid of Fansided.com's USC blog Reign of Troy. Madrid will also serve as the USC women's volleyball beat writer for the Daily Trojan this fall.
Why you should care: The Women of Troy represent the Cardinal and Gold well. Coach Mick Haley runs a terrific program. At Galen Center, the games are always full of energy, impressive digs, and powerful spikes. When you watch volleyball at this level, the precision of the outside hitters and the quality of play is astounding. Most importantly, everybody loves to watch their team win, and USC is good at that.
How to follow along: As with every sport, the best way to keep pace is to attend the games in person. Season tickets run about $75 per person. The Women of Troy, who play in the beautiful Galen Center, begin their home schedule on August 27 against Loyola Marymount at 7:30 PM in the Luxe City Center Trojan Invitiational. For those unable to make it to the action, be sure to check out the game stories in the Daily Trojan-USC's student newspaper. Furthermore, three marquee home matches can be seen on Fox Sports Net: Friday (Sept.) versus UCLA, Friday (Oct. 22) versus Oregon and Saturday (Oct. 30) versus Washington.
Some things you need to know:
A) USC was picked to finish second in the Pac-10.
USC finished second in the Pac-10 coaches poll behind defending champion Stanford. The Women of Troy received two of the ten first-place votes and finished a single point behind the Cardinal. The Pac-10 is the tradition power in women's volleyball. At the end of 2009, seven of the teams were ranked in the top 25. USC's selection at number two speaks volumes about the talent and expecations for this squad.
B) MaxPreps ranked USC's 2010 recruiting class number one.
Through tireless recruiting, Haley was able to sign the number one recruiting class in the country according to Max Preps. As USC looks to replace three starters, including two-time All-Pac-10 player Jessica Gysin, the newcomers will be in the mix. Outside hitter Falyn Fonoimoana has been tabbed as the top high school player in the country for 2009 and has a thorough understanding of the nuances of the game. At libero, incoming freshman Natalie Hagglund will push senior Geena Urango in what should be the fiercest position battle of preseason practice. Other freshman that could see plenty playing time include middle blocker Alexis Olgard, opposite Sara Shaw, and outside hitter Sam Hirschmann-who is coming off of a phenomenal season of club volleyball.
C) Alex Jupiter was an All-American last year
Jupiter is the star of the team. As an outside hitter, the junior racked up most of the points a year ago. Although she isn't a captain, Jupiter figures to be the focal point of the offense again as she continues to climb up the ranks of the USC record books. However, with more players with the ability to score, the offensive burden won't fall solely on Jupiter, and opponents won't be able to focus their defensive efforts on her-something that Haley acknowledges hampered USC last season. "We need to have point production from Alex but it can't be all on Alex this year. Now we can spread the ball around a little bit more and maybe make her more effective. "
D)Success at Galen
For stat junkies out there, USC is 52-7 (.881) all-time in the Galen Center. Something about hearing the Spirit of Troy and playing in front of the home crowd seems to make the Trojans click. In a recent interview, Coach Haley eluded to the fact he likes the home court advantage and hopes to draw large crowds for some of the bigger matches. If USC can manage the road schedule and continue the success at home, their record will live up to expectations.
Likelihood of Success: High. In the 2009 NCAA tournament, the Women of Troy got an unfortunate draw when they had to play Hawaii in the second round. Although Hawaii was a twelve seed, they made it to the Final Four. Heading into the 2010 campaign, tenth year coach Mick Haley believes this year's women's volleyball squad has the potential to be among the nation's elite and build on last season's efforts. "With the addition of our recruiting class, we should be a much better team-more experienced, deeper in talent. If everybody works hard and things goes the way we plan, we are going to be able to compete for a national title." The Trojans have made 19 straight consecutive NCAA tournament appearances. For them, it's not a question of making the playoffs. The real focus is on how long the ride will last.