Volleyball drops hard-fought battle to No. 3 USC

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    TCU's Yvonne Igodan, a senior middle blocker, was named to the 2013 Preseason All-Big 12 Team. USC's senior libero Natalie Hagglund is a two-time AVCA All-American and sophomore outside hitter Samantha Bricio was Pac-12 Freshman of the Year.

    The Trojans played in the NCAA regional championship match in four of the last six seasons. USC was a national semifinalist three of those times. 

    USC looks strong on paper, but that didn't scare TCU women's volleyball when the team's matched up Friday.

    The young TCU team played a hard-fought battle in Milwaukee, Wisc., at the Marquette Challenge right to the end, falling to USC in four sets (9-25, 18-25, 26-24, 26-28). 

    In fact, this match was the second time in TCU program history that the team took a set from a top-5 ranked opponent. The last was against then-No. 5 Minnesota on Sept. 17, 2005. 

    Despite dropping the first two sets, the Frogs (3-2, 0-0 Big 12) found a spark at the end of the second set with kills from freshman outside hitter Ashley Smith to challenge the Trojans into the third set, recording two kills and a block to force USC's first timeout of the match.

    The Frogs pushed USC (4-0, 0-0 Pac-12) to a fourth match, and despite a consistent offensive attack by USC, strong defensive efforts and kills by junior right-side hitter Stephanie Holland, freshman middle blocker Natalie Gower, and senior middle blocker Yvonne Igodan kept the match alive for the Frogs.

    TCU had a set point in the fourth set, but USC ultimately finished the match with a TCU service error tying the set at 26-26, a Bricio block and a kill from freshman outside hitter Elise Ruddins gave the Trojans a 28-26 set and match win.

    "It's disappointing [to lose to USC] because we could have put ourselves in that position, but you know, obviously, there is always a positive because you can say you battled a team that is that good," TCU head volleyball coach Prentice Lewis said.

    Smith led the team in kills for the third time this season and recorded a career-high double-double of 17 kills and 19 digs. Alexia Heist recorded her second double-double of the season with 22 assists and 12 digs for the match. 

    TCU was on the road the whole weekend, too, with match-ups against the University of Illinois-Chicago on Thursday and Marquette on Saturday.

    TCU (3-1, 0-0 Big 12) split the first two sets in Thursday's match against the University of Illinois-Chicago, but a strong offensive and blocking by the Frogs pushed the team over the Flames 3-1 (25-20, 17-25, 25-21, 25-10).

    In the match against UIC (1-3, 0-0 Horizon League), the team continued its record-setting blocking performance from last weekend at the Georgia Bulldog Invitational, posting its second double-digit blocking performance in a row. 

    Smith led all players with 15 kills. Holland finished out the match with nine kills and zero errors for a .600 hitting percentage. Igodan added nine kills and one error for a .571 hitting percentage.

    Junior middle blocker Mattie Burleson led the defensive effort with 10 blocks to tie her career high, while Heist and setter Trisha Langley guided the offense with 24 and 17 assists, respectively.

    TCU couldn't top Marquette (2-2, 0-0 Big East) in Milwaukee, Wisc,, on Saturday, though, dropping three sets after winning the first and falling to Marquette 3-1 (25-23, 20-25, 15-25, 18-25).

    After winning the first set handedly, Marquette charged back and didn't let up pressure for the rest of the match. Kills by Smith, Igodan and Gower continually brought the Frogs (3-3, 0-0 Big 12) close in the second and third sets, but strong serves by the Golden Eagles finished out the match.

    Igodan and Smith led the frogs with 11 and 10 kills, respectively, while Igodan was also named to the All-Tournament team for the second week in a row.Trisha Langley recorded her second career double-double by finishing with 12 assists and 10 digs.

    TCU will return home for the first time in the regular season to face North Texas on Wednesday, Sept. 11 at 6:30 p.m.