Samantha Bricio tried to act nonchalant after her 27th kill of the night against Stanford, but her USC teammates wouldn't let her get away with it.
After all, it was the game winner in the fifth set against a Cardinal team that had won its past 27 matches at Maples Pavilion. Bricio's teammate Brittany Abercrombie was the first to reach the outside hitter, followed by the rest of the Women of Troy, who improved to 14-0 and are No. 2 in the country in the latest AVCA poll.
"Sam was amazing; she took the whole team on her back," said USC coach Mick Haley after the 26-24, 19-25, 20-25, 25-17, 15-13 victory. "In the fourth set, she took over the match. It was probably one of the more amazing things I've seen. She stepped up to another level from blocking to digging to serving to pressure offense."
"Mick always tells me to make a good shot and better the ball," shrugged off Bricio, the espnW national player of the week and a candidate for NCAA player of the year. She added to a résumé that already includes four Pac-12 offensive player of the week awards in five weeks with a career-best 34 points against the Cardinal.
After USC dropped the second and third sets to eighth-ranked Stanford, Bricio racked up 13 of her 27 kills in the fourth and fifth sets, moving into fifth place on the school's all-time kills list with 1,655. Bricio's 10 digs gave her a fourth double-double this season, and for the 17th time in her career, the senior had five aces.
Her line last week, which also included USC's straight-sets win over No. 13 UCLA: 48 points, 37 kills, six aces, 18 digs and eight blocks.
Ask the native of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, to nitpick her own game, and she hones in on blocking.
"I was never good at blocking; I was awful," she said. "I've made a big improvement since my junior year. I'm not an awesome blocker now, but I can see improvement and so do my coaches."
But in watching the senior, also the youngest to play for the Mexican national team at age 16, it's hard not to admire her serve. She owns the No. 1 spot for career aces in the Pac-12.
"She's the only one in the world who can serve like this," Haley said. "She hits a hybrid jump float, and every once in a while, she gets topspin on it. That flat floater with the velocity on it -- it's over 53 miles per hour -- when it floats, it's just death to try to pass."
Bricio admits she developed the serve after an ankle sprain during her freshman year. With Haley standing behind her, Bricio practiced jump-float serves and then picked up the pace significantly.
"If you can do that, that'll work," he told her.
"It was an accident," she confessed.
Bricio has played volleyball since her mother made a team for her at the elementary school where she taught. She grew up watching her brother, Irving, go on to star on the Mexican senior national team.
"I wanted to be like my brother," she said. "I played badminton for maybe like two weeks, but really volleyball is my only sport."
The psychology major and "Criminal Minds" buff wants to work in criminal psychology. As far as her casual attitude after her career night, Bricio explains, "I don't like to celebrate after I score. I really like to celebrate after my teammates score."