For the past three years, Mick Haley and the Women of Troy have found themselves just outside of the winners' circle. They've been to the Final Four on back-to-back occasions and been a mainstay in the top 10 of the AVCA poll, but they've fallen just short of that elusive national championship.
Today, USC makes their 23rd consecutive appearance in the NCAA tournament, and once again, they play the role of the dark horse. USC is the No. 6 seed in the tournament and will have home-court advantage at the Galen Center through the regional finals. The Women Of Troy earned hosting rights for the first two rounds by being one of the top 16 teams in the tournament and were selected as one of the four hosts for the regional rounds.
But if USC wants to get to their third national semifinal in the last four years, they will likely have to take down the top team in their region, the Pac-12 champion Washington Huskies, who have already defeated USC in four sets twice this year.
First, USC will take on the New Hampshire Wildcats, who are 20-12 and champions of the America East. This is UNH's first NCAA tournament appearance in ten years, and coincidentally, that last appearance was a first-round exit to USC, who went on to clinch a second consecutive NCAA title. The winner of that match will take on the winner of Colorado State (28-1) vs. Cal State Northridge (23-6). The Rams were one of the big losers of the draw, pulling a potential second-round matchup with USC despite steamrolling their way to a Mountain West Conference title.
The Women Of Troy closed the season with a record of 26-5 (16-4), good for a third-place finish in the Pac-12 behind Washington and Stanford. They went undefeated against their California rivals for the first time in ten years and had four players receive All-Pac-12 honors.
Senior Natalie Hagglund was named the Pac-12 Libero Of The Year for the third straight time and is a strong candidate to receive national honors as well with 5.43 digs per set and 2,292 digs in her career, a school record. Ebony Nwanebu was named the conference's Freshman Of The Year after receiving weekly honors six times this season.
Joining Hagglund and Nwanebu on the All-Pac-12 team are senior middle blocker Alexis Olgard and sophomore outside hitter Samantha Bricio. For Olgard, it is her first time on the all-conference list, capping a steady rise as one of the league's most formidable blockers.
First serve is set for 7 p.m. PT, but is dependent on when the Colorado St./CSUN game ends. The first 250 students to show their ID at the ticket booth will get free tickets. For everyone else, it's $7 for tonight and $12 for the entire session. The game will be streamed on NCAA.com