USC wins one, cancels one against Arizona

The cancellation is USC’s seventh of the year, with the first six due to COVID-19 protocols.

Injuries hung over the USC women’s volleyball team this weekend against Arizona. While the Trojans overcame a mid-game collision to win the first match 3-2, the team had to cancel its second matchup Sunday. Due to injuries, the Trojans did not have enough available players to compete.

On Friday, the Trojans were expected to go for a five-set game after losing the first set to Arizona, since they’ve gone five sets in four other previous games this season. The Trojans delivered, winning in a thrilling five sets.

The Trojans’ size at the net put the Wildcats at a disadvantage from the start. Aggressive offensive play by senior outside hitter Brooke Botkin put the Wildcats out of system early on, making them deliver easy freeballs to the Trojans.

Blocking on both sides stayed quiet in the beginning, but USC broke out in the third set to deliver some major shutdowns. The Trojans closed in on Arizona freshman outside hitter Jaelyn Hodge, who gave them trouble in the second set.

Women’s volleyball coach Brad Keller worried about his team’s serve receive performance against Arizona’s notoriously tough serves, but the Trojans rose to the challenge. Keller said he was satisfied with his team’s serve receive Friday after they spent so much effort on it in practice.

“We’ve been erratic this year on serve receive, but our serve receive has gotten better throughout the year,” Keller said. “I thought our best passing was at Arizona, I thought we passed the ball very, very well.”

Unfortunately, injuries were a recurring theme for the Trojans. Junior outside hitter Brooklyn Schirmer and sophomore outside hitter Kalen Owes collided in the second set as they went for the same defensive play. Schirmer suffered a hit to her head and had to be subbed out temporarily.

Keller said that one of the players involved in the collision, as well as one of their middle blockers, sustained injuries from Friday’s game. Keller said while the team is disappointed about not playing their second game, the safety of the team always takes top priority.

“It’s a bummer because it was a really gritty and tough and good win for us [on Friday], and I was really pleased with how our kids fought and they were feeling good about themselves,” said Keller. “And then we turn around and it’s just bad news again.”

The Trojans recovered from the choppy second set to dominate the third. Arizona tied the match at two sets each, but USC came out on top after five. Sophomore middle blocker Aleksandra Gryka stood out later in the match, hammering spikes that Arizona had no chance of returning.

Arizona’s countless hitting and serving errors certainly put the Trojans over the edge to win the game. Arizona put up 60 total errors to USC’s 26, including two key service errors in the fifth set that put USC in line to win the tight game.

The Trojans expect to resume their regular-season schedule next weekend at Galen Center. They host Colorado for matches on April 1 and 3. One thing is for sure; the Trojans will give their fans plenty of entertainment if they continue to pull off their (almost) trademark five-set matches this season.