USC Advances To Regional Final With 3-2 Win Over St. John's

Dec. 7, 2007

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Senior All-America outside hitter Asia Kaczor (Wroclaw, Poland/College of Southern Idaho) had 25 kills Friday, including six in game five, as the No. 5 seeded USC Trojans defeated the No. 12 seeded St. John's Red Storm, 3-2 (30-27, 30-22, 26-30, 24-30, 15-10), in the NCAA Tournament regional semifinal. USC (28-4) was able to stave off a St. John's (33-4) rally after the Trojans took a 2-0 lead in the match.

Kaczor became the first Trojan to record 600 kills in a season, adding to her school single-season record and now has 612 on the season.

With the victory, USC recorded the 100th win in its postseason history and is now 100-27 overall. The Trojans also improved to a perfect 8-0 in five-game matches this season. Eight five-game matches in a season are the most by a Trojan squad since 1993 when USC also played eight matches.

'We made some mistakes that could have cost us, but our team was able to overcome that,' said USC head coach Mick Haley. 'I don't know what it is with this fifth game stuff, but we're pretty good in the fifth game this year. Our kids are proud of that. I thought we got superb efforts from a lot of people tonight.'

The Trojans got strong efforts from senior outside hitter Diane Copenhagen (Saratoga/St. Francis HS), who recorded 18 kills and 14 digs while junior outside hitter Jessica Gysin (Los Gatos/St. Francis HS) had 16 kills, three solo blocks and hit .359 (16-2-39) in the match.

Copenhagen registered her fifth straight double-double and her team-leading 13th of the season.

Sophomore setter Taylor Carico (Manhattan Beach/Mira Costa HS) recorded a career-high 71 assists, adding four digs and six block assists. Carico set a USC single-season record for most assists (1,499), passing the record of 1,490 held by Janice Mounts (1998).

Hui Ping Huang dominated for the Red Storm with 29 kills, four service aces, five digs and four block assists while hitting .481 (29-4-52). Latoya Blunt added 15 kills while Dana DeMayo recorded 14 kills and a match-high 29 digs.

USC outblocked St. John's by a 15 to 8 margin with freshman middle blocker Zoe Garrett (Laguna Beach/Laguna Beach HS) had a team-high seven blocks (one solo, six assisted). The Trojans defeated the Red Storm earlier this season, 3-1, on Aug. 25 at the Galen Center, but both teams played at an expected tough pace in the postseason.

Both teams traded sideouts to an 8-8 score in the first game. After USC was called for a net violation on the next point, Gysin started three straight points for the Trojans and the 11-9 advantage. Two USC attack errors tied the game again at 11-11, but Copenhagen later added two kills and a solo block for a 15-13 lead. Gysin went back-to-back as USC took a four-point lead at 18-14, but the Red Storm answered quickly. Utilizing a tough service game, St. John's tied it at 19-19 as Huang recorded three kills during the run. On Huang's serve, the Red Storm scored four straight points including an ace from Huang to take the 23-20 lead. Kaczor chipped a kill over the SJU block as the Trojans came back to tie the game, but two straight errors by USC gave the Red Storm the lead again at 25-23. Blunt made it a 27-24 score for St. John's before Hillgren took serve for the Trojans. USC scored two straight before a St. John's timeout and the Trojans trailing, 27-26. After the timeout, Copenhagen slammed one on the left side tie tie it at 27-27. Carico and Garrett stuffed a Red Storm attack and Garrett would later record another block on her own to cap the six-point run for USC and the 1-0 lead in the match.

Freshman Geena Urango (Los Alamitos/Los Alamitos HS) recorded back-to-back aces in game two and added a backrow kill after that as the Trojans raced to an 8-2 lead. Valeria Kovaleva got the Red Storm back in the game with a kill for a 4-1 run and a 12-9 deficit. Kaczor and Copenhagen went back-to-back as USC led, 16-11. St. John's went to Huang for four kills as the Red Storm got to within four again at 21-17. Gysin responded for the Trojans as three straight points put USC ahead by seven, 24-17. Carico tallied a '310' kill later in the game and Gysin ended the game with a kill and a solo block on Huang. USC hit a match-high .467 in the second game (23-2-45).

St. John's broke away in the third game with a 5-1 run to take a 12-7 lead as the Trojans burned a timeout. Huang combined on a block with junior middle hitter Chen Chen and added another kill to cap the run. Huang added two straight kills and DeMayo's ace pushed the Red Storm lead to eight at 15-7. Kaczor used a kill and ace as the Trojans countered with a 7-2 run to get within two before a costly service error swung the momentum back to St. John's for an 18-15 score. The Red Storm scored four straight as Lena Yee's ace made it a 22-16 advantage. Garrett's ace cut the deficit to 23-20 in favor of St. John's and a kill from Copenhagen cut it to two at 26-24. Blunt hit the needed kill and a service ace from Kayla Motoyama led the way for the game victory for the Red Storm.

After a series of sideouts in game four, DeMayo and Huang used kills for three straight and a 9-6 lead. A 6-2 run by the Trojans gave them a 12-11 lead as Gysin recorded two more kills. Huang put one straight down to tie the game, but two errors by the Red Storm put USC ahead at the media timeout, 15-13. SJU setter Wioleta Leszczynska used an ace to tie it at 16-16 for the Red Storm. Both teams battled to a 20-20 tie and Huang added another ace as the Red Storm held the 21-20 advantage. Huang capped the stretch of four straight points with another ace for a 23-20 lead. Kaczor brought the Trojans to within two at 26-24 with a kill, but it was another four-point push that led to a 2-2 tie in the match.

In game five, Gysin had the first kill for USC. A St. John's hitting error ensued, followed by Copenhagen's slam on an overpass and another kill from Kaczor as USC led, 4-0, on Urango's serve. Kaczor added two more kills as USC held an 8-1 lead on the side switch, but St. John's seemed to enjoy the change of scenery. Casie Brooks put St. John's back in the match as the Red Storm reeled off seven straight points to tie it at 8-8. Blunt and Kovaleva recorded back-to-back stuffs and Huang and Blunt combined on another block later to make it 9-9. Kaczor and Blunt traded kills for a 10-10 score. Kaczor added another backrow kill which sparked the five-point run on Carico's serve. USC used another block from Gysin and Garrett for the 12-10 lead. Kaczor recorded her final kill of the night, sandwiched by two St. John's errors as the Trojans were able to advance.

USC will face the winner of tonight's Florida/Texas contest tomorrow in the regional final at 4 p.m. Eastern (1 p.m. Pacific) for the right to advance to the national semifinal next week in Sacramento. This will be USC's first regional final appearance since 2004 and the Trojans' sixth regional final appearance in the past eight seasons.

Saturday's match will be broadcast live on ESPNU.

SJU	27-22-30-30-10USC	30-30-26-24-15

Records: USC (28-4), St. John's (33-4)Kills: Asia Kaczor 25 (USC), Hui Ping Huang 29 (SJU)

Team: SJU USC1 .173 .2292 .262 .4673 .310 .2624 .227 .1785 -.045 .167Match .208 .270

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