The Trojans fought hard against the Utah Utes, but were swept 3-0. Three players had double digit kills during the match. The home crowd was roaring after every point in support of the Trojans.
In the first set, USC hit .314 as a team, but Utah played slightly better.
Utah captured 20 kills and hit an outstanding .459 to win the first set, 25-22. It looked like the Trojans could not keep up as they were down by four throughout the first set. However, the Trojans closed the gap to one, in part due to five kills apiece from graduate senior outside Brooke Botkin and junior opposite Emilia Weske.
“I think if you really look into the transition game for us and swings out of system, and I think we had somewhere around zero, and they had like 300 out of system, and you are not going to win a game if you are not putting balls away,” head coach Brad Keller said.
In the second set, it was a back and forth match with the score tied 12 times.
It was tight towards the end, with the Trojans and the Utes exchanging points. At one moment, it was 23-24, and the Utah was able to hang on for a 25-23 win and went up 2-0 for the match.
The third set was a battle for the Trojans. The score was even throughout the third, but Utah eventually took control. The Utes were able to pull away from the Trojans with a 19-15 lead, but USC refused to give up easily.
The Trojans came back with a 3-0 run, and forced Utah to call a timeout late in the third. Out of timeout, the Trojans were able to score five straight points to take control of set 23-21.
Utah’s Dani Drews ended the run with a kill. Drews, in the last two points of the match, got a solo block and captured her 17th kill of the match to lead the Utes to a sweep of the Trojans.
USC tried to slow down Drews in the second and third set. Candice Denny, graduate senior middle blocker says, “she is really good. Good hitters like that you can never stop completely. You can only follow a hitter like that.”
Keller expressed pride for the hard work this team has been putting in to get better. “I am actually really proud of them in a lot of areas. I think we’ve improved so much in so many little and small ways, but the results haven’t been there,” he said.
On Sunday, the Trojans redeemed themselves with a 3-1 win over the No.24 Colorado Buffaloes.
Colorado started out strong and led by as many as three in the first set. However, the Trojans were able to pull ahead with a 6-1 run to put them ahead 16-12. The Trojans were able to take the set 25-19 after six kills from graduate senior outside hitter Shannon Scully and four service aces as a team.
Keller talked about how they improved their serving during the last couple of weeks. " Whatever that serve is, if it’s working, don’t fix it. Keep going at it with it over and over and make them make a play,” he said.
USC was challenged in the second set after jumping out to an early lead. Towards the end of the set, the Buffaloes’ Maya Tabron had seven kills to help tie up the score at 24 apiece. After multiple back and forth rallies the Trojans were able to win the set 27-25.
The Buffaloes came out fighting to avoid the match ending with a sweep. USC hit a paltry .270 clip and tied the Buffaloes 15 times. In the end, Colorado put the pedal to the metal, and was able to close out the set with a 25-20 win.
The fourth set was tense for the Trojans after squandering a 19-9 lead.
Junior setter Raquel Lazaro reflects “I feel like we had a huge run, and then when things get kind of tight, we all get very tense. So it was good that we were able to get out of there and just get good swings and be able to put the ball away.”
The Buffaloes used their 12-2 run to tie the Trojans at 21. USC battled back and was able to get three kills from Denny and Weske to close out the match for the win.
Scully said her team is always thinking about the next point mentality.
“We are always trying to focus on what we can control ahead of us instead of getting in our heads and getting internal.”
The Trojans will travel to Arizona next weekend to take on the Arizona State Sun Devils on Friday and the Arizona Wildcats on Sunday.