LOS ANGELES — USC women’s volleyball defeated the Villanova Wildcats to claim the Trojan Invitational in three straight sets. Saturday night’s sweep was the second 3-0 win of the season for the Women of Troy; the first was against Howard University earlier that day. The Trojans hosted Yale, Howard and Villanova in a round-robin tournament.
During the first match against the Bulldogs on Friday, several underclassmen dominated the court. With four freshmen on the line up due to a multitude of injuries plaguing veteran players, the Trojans battled Yale to five sets in their first match, finishing the fifth set 15-11.
“I’m really excited about [Freshman opposite hitter Emilia Weske] and [Freshman outside hitter Kalen Owes] and [freshman middle blocker Maddie Horin],” head coach Brent Crouch said. “We had four freshmen out on the court tonight. For them to get experience is great. They’re getting better each match. [Owes] was pretty spectacular. She was the best player on the court tonight on either team.”
Owes led both teams in the first match of the tournament with 20.5 points and a career-best .348 hitting percentage. Owes also had 18 kills and 10 digs; her second career double-double. Weske also proved to have another notable underclassmen performance against the Bulldogs, scoring 11 kills and posting five blocks.
Despite having four freshmen in the starting lineup, the Trojans added the experience of senior OH Khalia Lanier in the second match against Howard University. After missing four matches due to injury, Lanier made an epic comeback earning 13 kills and eight digs. The Trojans took control of the Bisons for the majority of the first set, but a late run brought the game within two points before the Trojans closed it out with a 25-22 win.
USC asserted their dominance in the second set with a .462 hitting percentage which was mirrored on the defensive end with an 88% sideout rate.
The third set did not go as handily for the Trojans. The score was neck and neck a total of 13 times in the final set of the match. USC managed to dig deep, pulling out a 26-24 victory over Howard.
The final match against Villanova was led by senior middle blocker Jasmine Gross, who was named the tournament’s most valuable player. Gross hit .615 with eight kills and no errors. Matching the error-free play was Weske with nine kills on 21 attempts. Both hitters were named to the All-Tournament team, alongside Owes.
“Our top end is really high, we’ve just gotta get healthy,” Crouch said. “We are a very deep team… We just need to get healthy and get everyone practicing all the time.”
The Trojans will conclude their non-conference schedule this weekend at the USD Invitational #2. The Women of Troy will face San Diego Thursday and cap the weekend’s tournament with a match against Long Beach State on Friday.