No. 1 USC Beats Third-Ranked Florida In Season Opener

Aug. 22, 2003

HONOLULU, HAWAI'I - Top-ranked and defending national champion USC did not skip a beat, defeating third-ranked Florida, 3-0 (31-29, 30-17, 30-25), to open the 2003 season. With the win, the Women of Troy advance to the championship match of the NACWAA/State Farm Volleyball Classic on Saturday, Aug. 22, and will face either second-ranked Hawai'i or No. 15 Kansas State.

In a rematch of last year's NCAA Semifinal, the Trojans managed to once again find their rhythm and utilize their versatility in order to beat a powerful Florida squad.

'These are two outstanding teams and I though Florida did a really nice job,' said head coach Mick Haley. 'It's hard for both teams to play the way they want with so little practice, but I was excited for our players and I think we have good potential.'

After an early Trojan 4-1 lead to open the match, Florida charged back and eventually took an 8-6 lead thanks to consecutive blocks and strong play from senior Aury Cruz. But the teams matched each other point-for-point after that point, both trying to shake the first-game jitters.

The Gators were first to reach match point (29-28), but a kill by USC sophomore Bibiana Candelas halted their attempt and gave the Trojans momentum. Katie Olsovsky and Emily Adams posted a block for the following point and April Ross sealed the first win, 31-29, with a kill.

The Women of Troy kept a safe distance from the Gators for the remainder of the match. USC defeated Florida 30-17 in game two after hitting at a .480 clip and holding Florida to an .057 attack percentage with only 12 kills and 10 attack errors. The Gators fought back in game three but managed to lead only once (17-16). At that point, consecutive kills by Olsovsky and sophomore Staci Venski provided a spark and USC rolled to the final 30-25 victory.

The Trojans posted a .303 attack percentage thanks to the efforts of Venski (.800, 4-0-5), Candelas (.455, 6-1-11), Emily Adams (.400, 7-1-15), Olsovsky (.375, 7-1-16) and Ross (.364, 10-2-22). Keao Burdine led the team with 12 kills and 13.5 points, Adams led with five blocks and Candelas posted a career-high four service aces.

The Trojans started the match with a veteran lineup, playing a 5-1 for the first few rotations. Head coach Mick Haley inserted freshman setter Kimi Freeburg and junior outside hitter Alicia Robinson midway through game one and allowed USC to revert to its unique 6-2 system for portions of the match. Veteran Toni Anderson finished the match with 29 assists, while Freeburg contributed 11.

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