The fifth-ranked Women of Troy took care of business in their first home match of the season, disposing of UC Irvine in straight sets 25-18, 25-15, 25-19 for their lively home opener Wednesday night from the Galen Center.
"When everyone is on the same page, we are going to be a great team," said head coach Mick Haley, adding "I just think we can play so much better, that I wasn't too much concerned with the final score."
The Women of Troy (9-1) and the Anteaters (7-4) battled before a national audience on ESPNU, while playing in front of the likes of current USC Athletic Director Pat Haden, senior associate athletic director Matt Lopes along with current WNBA star Brittney Griner. Former USC Gymnast Mary (Byers) Aschieris, and Barbara Hedges lined right behind the USC sideline for the match, sharing some laughs with head coach Mick Haley before the contest.
From the Trojan athlete side of things, basketball forward Byron Wesley and USC Football tight end/quarterback Chris Willson were also seen in attendance rooting on their dominant volleyball stars Wednesday night at Galen.
After playing their first nine matches on the road, the Trojans will play five of their next six within the friendly confines of the Galen Center. The Women of Troy looked rather comfortable in front of a passionate home crowd of 1,042, playing one of their best games of the season.
Finishing up non-league play on Friday against Cal State Fullerton, the young Women of Troy are gearing up for the rigors of Pac-12 play with five foes lined in the Top 25 ranks.
"Well, we got some work to do. I told them that I was pleased that they won. They did some good things, but we still aren not in rhythm yet," head coach Mick Haley said following the three-set victory.
The Trojans are now 95-10 all-time at the Galen Center. In fact, USC has lost just one home match in each of the last three seasons and is currently on a 10-match winning streak. The last time the Women of Troy went undefeated in home matches was in 2007 when USC was 19-0 en route to an appearance in the NCAA semifinals.
"We have really accomplished players in terms of how to play and how to win," Haley said, before adding, "It will be interesting to see if we can keep our camaraderie, and our defensive assignments right for Friday."
USC's dominance over the two local foes (33-0 over UC Irvine and CS Fullerton) has been so prevalent that it has only been pushed to five sets once in each of the series. Leading the way for the Women of Troy was senior Sara Shaw, who recorded 10 kills and seven digs in the valiant effort, while junior Haley Crone recorded 13 assists.
The young guns also came to play as sophomore outside hitter Samantha Bricio (9 kills, 7 digs, one ace) and Ebony Nwanebu (8 kills, one block) came out firing from the start, as the Trojans never looked back after gridning out a first-set victory over the Anteaters, which tested the resilience of many of the younger players on this team.
"Considering its my first home game here, I did have some trouble with the home band and stuff but I really loved it," said Nwanebu, the only starting freshman for USC on a relatively younger lineup.
"We did really good at blocking, something we had really been working on in practice," Nwanebu said. Part of her immediate emergence starts right up front, working alongside middle blocker Alexis Ogard, building upon an enthusiastic dedication to improving every minute aspect on the court.
Opposing the Trojans on Wednesday night was Hall of Fame middle blocker Paula Weishoff (inducted in 1998), who stands the fifth-year head coach of the Anteaters.
Weishoff was an All-American player leading the Trojans to the 1980 AIAW National Championship, and as an assistant to head coach Mick Haley, she helped lead the Trojans to both their national titles (2002-2003) during the now 13-year Haley regime at Troy.
The resounding victory moves USC ever closer to their 10th win on the season, with the upstart Cal State Fullerton Titans coming to the Galen Center on Friday night. That game can be watched live stream via usctrojans.com before the Trojans take a "much-needed day off" as Haley puts, tackling the Goliath's of the Pac-12 next week.