About the Program
Since its first officially sanctioned season in 1976, the USC women's volleyball program has been a model of consistency in terms of overall success. At the conclusion of the 2011 season, the Women of Troy have produced six national championships, 34 All-Americans and 21 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. The program existed as a non-sanctioned sport prior to 1976 with a total of 22 Olympians that have come through USC.
In 1976, USC awarded scholarships for the first time in program history and head coach Chuck Erbe took full advantage. With the help of four All-Americans (Debbie Green, Debbie Landreth, Terry Place and Paula Dittmer-Goodwin), USC went 34-1 on the season and won the AIAW national championship after a three-set win over UCLA in the national final.
With four returning starters and the addition of two-time Olympian outside hitter Sue Woodstra, the 1977 squad went wire-to-wire as the nation's No. 1 team as USC went undefeated with a perfect 38-0 mark to win back-to-back national championships to open the first two years of the program. USC defeated Hawai'i in four sets in the AIAW national championship in Provo, Utah.
Erbe left for the 1978 season, taking the graduated USC seniors to Asia as the U.S. national team, leaving Dale Flickenger to serve as head coach. Hawai'i returned the favor by taking away USC's attempt at three straight titles as the Women of Troy finished sixth at the AIAW Championship and a 32-11-1 overall mark. In 1979, Erbe returned to take over the reins of the program again, but a 20-13-3 record was a result of a difficult season as USC failed to advance out of the regional.
With no seniors and four junior returners in 1980, three-time All-American Cathy Stukel led the charge as USC climbed back to the top. The Women of Troy went 46-4 and swept Pacific in the AIAW final in Santa Barbara to win the school's third national championship. Stukel was named conference most valuable player.
The 1981 season represented a major change as the NCAA officially recognized women's volleyball. With the loss of three-time Olympian and Hall of Famer Paula Weishoff, the Women of Troy struggled through a brutal schedule. When the first-ever NCAA Tournament bracket was released, USC was seeded as the No. 8 team and headed to Seattle for the Northwest Regional. After sweeping Arizona, USC scored the tournament's largest upset with a four-set win over top-ranked Hawai'i with Dana Smith recording 12 kills. Pauley Pavilion was the site for the Final Four as USC recorded another upset over Pacific to set up another final match with UCLA, this time for the inaugural NCAA championship. The Women of Troy would bounce back from a 2-1 deficit, winning 15-7 in the fifth set to win the first-ever NCAA title and the school's fourth national championship.
USC's attempt at another third-straight national championship was thwarted by Hawai'i in the 1982 NCAA championship match as the Rainbow Wahine won in five sets. The program would suffer through some lean years after the program's third-place finish in 1985. The loss of the team's lone setter to a knee injury in 1986 provided the worst season in school history and a disastrous 2-32 overall mark. After back-to-back records of 18-11 and 18-16, the program saw a change as Lisa Love took over as head coach in 1989.
Love stabilized the program as USC would finish no worse than fourth in the Pac-10 Conference standings under her leadership through the 1998 season. Kim Ruddins was a two-time All-American setter and would play in the 1984 and 1988 Olympics while Tracy Clark would be a four-time first team All-American. The Trojans would post seven 20-win seasons under her tenure as Janice Mounts and Jennifer Kessy would finish off the 1998 season by setting several school records.
The program made a seismic change when it was announced that former Texas and U.S. National Team coach Mick Haley would take over as USC's head coach. With Haley spending two years as national team coach prior to the 2000 Olympics, Jerritt Elliott was named interim head coach before Haley would begin his USC coaching stint in 2001. USC finished with a 21-9 record in 1999 and earned a share of the Pac-10 Conference title in 2000 as the Women of Troy made their first Final Four appearance since 1985, falling to Wisconsin. In Haley's first season at USC, the Trojans hosted the regional at the Sports Arena, but three-time All-American April Ross' ankle injury in the regional final against Arizona made it a bittersweet loss to the Wildcats.
In 2002, five returning starters including Ross and All-American Katie Olsovsky put USC in the No. 2 spot in the pre-season poll. The Women of Troy raced through its schedule with its lone loss coming in five sets against Stanford as the 17-1 record gave USC its first-ever outright Pac-10 Conference title. New Orleans was the site for the NCAA Final Four as the Trojans polished off Florida in four sets to advance to their first championship final since 1982. With a balanced attack and 15-kill, 15-dig effort from NCAA Championship most valuable player Keao Burdine, USC won the school's fifth national championship with a four-set win against Stanford.
The 2003 squad provided a stellar encore and in the process, produced one of the greatest seasons in collegiate women's volleyball history. USC went undefeated with a 35-0 record, becoming just the fourth team to go undefeated en route to a national championship (the school's sixth title) and the first team to do so as a repeat champion. Ross, along with Emily Adams, Burdine and Bibiana Candelas earned All-America status while Haley was named AVCA National Coach of the Year after USC defeated Minnesota and Florida at the NCAA Final Four in Dallas.
Minnesota would halt the 2004 squad's attempt at three straight titles with the four-set win in the national semifinal. All-American Asia Kaczor would bring the Trojans back to the NCAA Final Four in 2007 with USC going 29-5 overall, falling to Stanford in a thrilling five-set contest in Sacramento. The 2010 and 2011 campaigns would produce equal 29-5 records and back-to-back Final Four appearances. The 2011 season concluded with Alex Jupiter being named as USC's first-ever AVCA National Player of the Year as the three-time All-America outside hitter would also win the Honda Award for women's volleyball.
The numbers don't lie in terms of USC being among the nation's elite in terms of women's volleyball. For close to four decades, USC women's volleyball has produced some of the top players in the nation and with a home-court advantage in the one of the best volleyball facilities in the $150-million Galen Center, the Women of Troy will always be a program that is a model of success.