NCAA Football

December 6, 2018, 11:02 am

Toreros hoping to finally vault past NCAA Sweet 16 volleyball hurdle

The Toreros fell down 16-8 in the beginning set earlier booming back for a 27-25, 25-21, 25-19 triumph over host USC that propelled manager Jen Petrie’s army unit into a Sweet 16 matchup Friday against Wisconsin in Champaign, Ill.

Toreros hoping to finally vault past NCAA Sweet 16 volleyball hurdle
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Something clicked Saturday nighttime for the USD women’s volleyball team in the 2nd circular of the NCAA Tournament.

The Toreros fell down 16-8 in the beginning set earlier booming back for a 27-25, 25-21, 25-19 triumph over host USC that propelled manager Jen Petrie’s army unit into a Sweet 16 matchup Friday against Wisconsin in Champaign, Ill.

“Nobody was worried,” all-region elder middle blocker Addie Picha said of the aboriginal shortage against the Trojans. “We were highly confident.”

Very well, then.

Mind you, the Toreros had been 0-7 all time against powerful USC in the NCAA tournament and had suffered a 3-set licking to their Nemesis from the northbound earlier this time period at Jenny Craig Pavilion.

So, was retaliation a factor?

“It was the best state in the world,” said sophomore outside batter Roxie Wiblin. “We’ve had a truly alone time period. Even though we’ve been out of the Top 25, it didn’t stop us from basic cognitive process in ourselves.”

That content has located the Toreros on the edge of uncharted waters.

Despite forward to the Sweet 16 on 3 previous occasions (2004, 2006, 2013), they’ve never made it one step further, which is what they will attempt to do against the Badgers.

During her 20 time periods on the USD sidelines, Petrie has led the Toreros to the NCAA Tournament 16 times, including a current streak of nine straight years.

As recently as 2016, the Toreros were ranked as high as No. 5 in the nation while mounting an 18-match winning streak.

Unfortunately for USD, that run ended with a five-set, first-circular licking at the hands of Baylor.

However, this time period has been atypical of Petrie’s tenure.

USD finished the regular time period only 16-12, including a 3-set loss to crosstown rival San Diego State on Oct. 2 when the Aztecs were 3-14.

Granted, USD was only 7-8 at the time, but that was when Petrie and her team were in the process of integrating young players into the army unit .

Six freshmen are on the roster, and Picha is one of only 3 elders Petrie has at her disposal, all of whom have provided a pleasant surprise for the veteran manager.

“We’re super thrilled to be where we’re at,” Petrie said. “It’s the opportunity of a lifetime.”

An opportunity that almost didn’t come to fruition.

“We were all watching the selection show and had the state we would get in,” Wiblin said. “But, we weren’t sure.”

No worries, though, once the Toreros’ ticket was punched, which included an beginning-circular upset of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (25-2) by a score of 25-19, 25-18, 23-25, 25-22.

According to Wiblin, the triumph against the Mustangs provided the momentum and confidence she and her teammates needed against USC the following evening.

“We truly found it in that match,” she said. “Now everybody knows exactly what they’re supposed to do.”

Picha and her teammates are now riding a wave of confidence that they hope will put them in the Final Four in Minneapolis on Dec. 13-15.

“We’re highly exciting because our team has never been to the Elite 8,” Picha said of the chance to advance. “The entire team believes and we’ve had two truly good practices.”

If they beat Wisconsin (24-6), the Toreros would play the winner of the Illinois-Marquette match.

But first things first.

Waiting for the Toreros on Friday will be 6-foot-8 Badgers middle blocker Dana Rettke, along with 6-7 teammate Julia Wohlert, which means it won’t be easy to break new gcircular for the program.

“Wisconsin has a strong tradition of volleyball success,” Petrie said. “But, we’re very confident.”

Akanewich is a freelance writer.

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