No. 1 USC heads to desert to take on Arizona schools

first_imgThe women’s volleyball team begins its final road trip of the regular season on Friday, as it takes on No. 23 Arizona in Tucson before heading to Tempe for a clash against No. 24 Arizona State. The No. 1 Women of Troy are back atop the national rankings after a perfect home stand, and they look to pick up more momentum on the road before returning home Thanksgiving week to play rivals California and UCLA.In the stretch run of a grueling season, the squad will be challenged both physically and mentally in the coming matches, and junior setter Alice Pizzasegola said the team has to stay sharp.“We need to be focused and stay focused,” she said. “It’s easy to lose your focus on the road … but we need to stay with it till the end.”Endurance may, indeed, prove to be key, as this season’s race to the Pac-12 summit remains neck-and-neck between the USC and Washington, who ruined the Women of Troy’s perfect season last month in Seattle. The Huskies lie just one game behind USC with two matches to play.This makes the end of the regular season pivotal for the Women of Troy, starting with their journey to the desert. USC beat the Wildcats, 3-1, in a tightly contested match earlier in the year at the Galen Center. Head coach Mick Haley and his team have not lost to Arizona since the 2013 season, but that match ended with Arizona knocking off the then-No. 1 Women of Troy in Tucson.Haley also pointed out that the Wildcats would have an extra incentive on Friday, needing to beat both USC and UCLA to force their way into the NCAA tournament.“They need to beat us, and we have to be ready to accept that challenge,” he said.Arizona currently sits at 7-9 in conference play and at 17-11 overall, but they remain in the top 25 and have played well at home. The Wildcats are 9-4 at the McKale Center this season, and three of those four losses came against teams that now find themselves in the top 10: Washington, Texas and Stanford.Two days after their match in Tucson, the Trojans head north to take on the Sun Devils. No. 24 Arizona State sits one place below its in-state rivals in the national rankings but actually has a better season record of 19-8 (8-8 in Pac-12 play). The Sun Devils have had an up-and-down season, which makes them formidable opponents on the wrong day, a fact Haley was all too familiar with.“For the last, seems like, 10 years, it’s been a five-set match [in Tempe],” he said. “They really feel like they can beat us.”Haley won his 900th victory as a Division I coach the last time USC played Arizona State, as the Women of Troy sent the Sun Devils packing in four sets at the Galen Center. Like the Wildcats, however, ASU has looked more comfortable at home and sports a stellar 12-1 season mark at the Wells Fargo Center.Whether the match is in the Galen Center or in Tempe, the Trojans will be ready.“[We want] to make a strong statement,” Pizzasegola said. “Yeah, we’re good at home, but we’re good on the road, too.”With two highly anticipated rivalry clashes looming in the distance, USC’s final, pivotal regular season road trip will not be an easy one. But with every away match, Pizzasegola said, comes an extra incentive.“If we win 3-0, 3-0 on the road, we get ice cream,” she said. “So that’s the goal: getting ice cream.”Friday’s match against Arizona begins at 6 p.m., and Sunday’s match at Arizona State starts at     1 p.m.last_img