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Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Samantha Bricio puts up big numbers for USC

By Mechelle Voepel

It's been more than a decade since a USC freshman was named national player of the week by the American Volleyball Coaches Association. But considering the impact Samantha Bricio already has made this season, it's not a surprise she recently received that accolade for the Trojans.

In victories last week against Arizona and Arizona State, Bricio had a combined 46 kills and 27 digs. She hit .475 against the Wildcats and .317 against the Sun Devils. Neither team could find any way to slow her down.

That could be a familiar theme in the Pac-12 over the next four seasons. And get this: Bricio isn't even 18 years old; she'll celebrate that milestone in November. She is from Guadalajara, Mexico, and played for the Mexican senior national team at age 16.

The 6-foot-2 outside hitter was expected to make an immediate impact for USC, which lost 2011 kills leader Alex Jupiter to graduation. Bricio currently leads the Trojans with 242 kills and is hitting .302 on the season.

Incidentally, the last USC rookie to be AVCA national player of the week was April Ross in 2000; she led the Trojans to NCAA titles in 2002 and '03. Ross and partner Jennifer Kessy took the silver medal in beach volleyball at the London Olympics this summer.

To make the "symmetry" complete, USC alums Ross and Kessy were honored Sunday at the Galen Center during the Trojans' victory over Arizona State, so they got to watch the youngster Bricio put on an impressive show.

1. Penn State (16-1)

The Nittany Lions swept Northwestern, but did get a challenge from Illinois, last year's national runner-up. Penn State beat the host Illini 3-2 Saturday, with the final set decided 18-16. Deja McClendon had 15 kills and 15 digs against Illinois. Purdue and Indiana visit Penn State this weekend.

2. Washington (15-0)

The Huskies, with wins over Utah and Colorado last week, are still perfect this season -- the last Division I team to be so. That could be tested this weekend, though, as Washington travels to face Oregon State and Oregon. The Huskies and Stanford are tied atop the Pac-12 standings at 6-0.

3. Nebraska (13-2)

In the match most expected to be the toughest of the Huskers' trip to the Hoosier State last week, Nebraska won in a sweep. That was against Purdue, which at the time was the Big Ten co-leader with Penn State. The match that was supposed to be "easier" was anything but: Nebraska needed to go the distance to beat Indiana 3-2. This weekend, the Huskers host Wisconsin and Minnesota, the latter at 3 p.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2.

4. Stanford (14-2)

On Friday, Stanford handed visiting Oregon its first loss of the season, 3-2. The Cardinal's stellar freshman class will meet the rookies of USC on Wednesday night at Stanford, which should be an exciting showcase of both the present and the future of the Pac-12. Friday, defending champ UCLA comes to Maples Pavilion.

5. Oregon (14-1)

The Ducks ran into a little too much all-over-the-place defense from Stanford's Kyle Gilbert last week. She had a career-high 24 digs in leading the Cardinal past Oregon, as the Ducks fell for the first time this season in a 3-2 tug-of-war. Oregon would now like to take down the last undefeated team left, Washington. The Ducks will get their chance against the Huskies on Saturday night at home.

6. USC (16-2)

Mick Haley got his 300th win at the school -- and 1,170th of his coaching career -- against Arizona State on Sunday. This week, the Trojans make their trip to the Bay area, where they will face Stanford on Wednesday and Cal on Friday.

7. UCLA (12-3)

Senior Tabi Love led the way in sweeps last week of Arizona State and Arizona, with a combined 28 kills. The Bruins make the trip to the Bay area this weekend to face Stanford and Cal. Last year, UCLA beat the Cardinal and the Bears both home and away, marking the first time since the 2000 season the Bruins had gone 4-0 against those two rivals. It will be hard to repeat that feat in 2012.

8. Texas (14-3)

The Longhorns hope they'll be going to Louisville in December for the final four. But they got an early taste of the KFC Yum! Center on Monday, and it was quite a challenge. Texas held on, though, to beat host Louisville 3-2. Sophomore Haley Eckerman had a career-high 27 kills and 23 digs in the nonconference match. Next for the Horns is Kansas, which like Texas is unbeaten in Big 12 play heading into the Jayhawks' match Wednesday at Oklahoma.

9. Hawaii (14-2)

Good luck, Cal State Northridge. The Matadors are visiting Hawaii on Friday, and as if playing at the Stan Sheriff Center isn't hard enough, it's also homecoming weekend for Hawaii. Emily Hartong was named Big West player of the week after leading the Rainbow Wahine to two victories last week; they lead the league at 7-0.

10. Florida (13-2)

The Gators are now a league-best 7-0 in the SEC after victories against Arkansas, in a sweep, and Kentucky, in a 3-2 nail-biter. Florida will host Auburn and Ole Miss this week. But it's not too early to look ahead to the Gators' showdown with SEC newcomer Texas A&M, which is the Western Division leader at 6-1. That matchup in College Station, Texas, is slated for Oct. 21 at 2 p.m. ET, on ESPNU.

Digs

• LSU's tough season continued last week with a 3-2 loss at home to Georgia on ESPNU. This week, the network's SEC matchup for Wednesday is again in Baton Rouge. This time, the Tigers are host to Tennessee (8 p.m. ET, ESPNU).

• Another new team to the SEC this year, Missouri, is second behind Florida in the Eastern Division at 5-3. The Tigers host Mississippi State at 1 p.m. Sunday on ESPNU.

• Kansas State knocked off one fellow ranked team from the Big 12, Iowa State, but was swept by another, league leader Texas, last week. The Wildcats might still prove to be the second-best squad in the Big 12, but right now they are tied with the Cyclones for fourth in the standings. K-State's only match this week is Saturday against new-to-the-Big-12 TCU. Then, on Oct. 17, the Wildcats have their Sunflower State rivalry match at Kansas.