Trojans end regular season with three-set win over Buffaloes

USC ends the season on a four-game winning streak.

The Trojans put on a show in their last match of the regular season, pulling off a three-set win over the Colorado Buffaloes Saturday afternoon. The Trojans also won their first match against CU in four sets Thursday.

USC started slow Saturday but quickly got into a groove halfway through the first set. From there, the Trojans used their strong offensive play at the net to overpower the Buffaloes. Hard crosscourt shots by USC were the kryptonite to CU’s defense, putting the Buffs out of system when they didn’t end with a kill.

When junior setter Raquel Lázaro wasn’t setting up the front row, she was putting on an impressive defensive performance, coming up with 13 digs. Sophomore opposite hitter Emilia Weske executed at an extraordinary level, posting an excellent .500 hitting percentage and 11 kills.

“She just played a complete game for us and she’s a calm, cool presence,” head coach Brad Keller said of Weske. “I just thought she and Raquel were in a great rhythm together.”

USC showcased possibly its highest level of play this season in the second set, pairing excellent defense with offensive dominance to grow its lead over Colorado. With junior outside hitter Brooklyn Schirmer, senior middle blocker Candice Denny and Weske in the front row, the Trojans were unstoppable, putting up a total of 15 kills in the second set alone.

The Trojans served the Buffaloes off of the court in the third set, acing Colorado six times. The Buffs clawed their way back to tie it late in the set, but the Trojans battled back and ultimately finished off the sweep.

Keller said that to win its last game at home meant a lot to the team, especially after the tumultuous year it’s had.

“This team got thrown so many different curveballs at the most inopportune times, whether it was untimely injuries, COVID-related situations,” Keller said. “To come off and have four wins at the end of the season is gratifying, and it shows that you’re trending in the right direction, that kids are still into it.”

USC faced countless challenges this season. Stanford was the only team in the Pac-12 to have more game cancellations. Injuries reduced the Trojans’ roster to the point that they had to forfeit against Arizona last weekend. Keller said that although the year wasn’t perfect, the team’s dedication makes him excited for next season.

“It absolutely gives me a ton of encouragement,” Keller said. “We’ve got some new players coming in to give us a little more depth, which is going to be great, and I just think that we have a new standard here. So we’re going to just take off from there.”