USC can’t close out Oregon in five-set thriller

The Trojans started off strong in the first two sets, but the Ducks powered back and were able to come out with the reverse sweep.

A photo of USC graduate outside hitter Brooke Botkin in a cardinal jersey attempting a shot, with Oregon players in green jerseys on the other side of the net.

After building a 2-0 lead, USC fell to No. 16 Oregon on Sunday with a reverse sweep from the Ducks.

“I’m pretty distraught,” graduate senior outside hitter Brooke Botkin said. “I just really wanted to win, which really, really sucks. But, you know, I feel like we learn from every single game we play, and we have another opportunity at playing Oregon before the season is over.”

The Trojans came out with guns blazing in the first two sets. The team as a whole hit 18 kills in the first set and in the second set the Trojans hit a phenomenal .333.

In addition to the remarkable hitting in the first two sets, the team garnered three blocks in order to slow down the Ducks’ offense.

“I was really impressed with how we came out in sets one and two. That is some of the best volleyball I’ve seen our program play since I’ve been here … even a little bit in the fifth set,” head coach Brad Keller said. “I thought we played some really inspired volleyball as well.”

Oregon battled back against the Trojans in the third set. The Ducks hit an impressive .277 and picked up their serving, taking the set 25-21 due to the six hitting errors on the Trojan side of the net.

“Oregon had 15 kills and two errors and we had 16 kills and six errors,” Keller said. “So when you get to that point and ...you are four more errors than they do just in that alone and you [lose] 25-21. That’s the story of it right there.”

The Trojans lost momentum in the fourth set. They hit to a .059 hitting percentage and could not get a pass to the net. Oregon took advantage of these mistakes and was able to capture the set with a 25-15 victory.

The Trojans trailed throughout the decisive fifth set by two but were finally able to tie the set at 14-14. Botkin told her team at 14-14, “empty the tanks. Give it everything you have got. Because it is now or never pretty much ... be fearless and play every goal.”

But with two errors from the Trojans, the Ducks were able to secure the match with a 16-14 win.

Fortunately for the Trojans, it was not all losses this weekend. On Friday night, they beat the Oregon State Beavers in a 3-1 victory. Botkin talked about how they prepared differently for this match as opposed to the Oregon match.

“Oregon State was very different from Oregon in a sense of players and what we were blocking and how our defense was set up,” she said.

The Beavers came out strong in the first set, leading by three points on multiple occasions. But he Trojans fought back and were able go on a 6-0 run to close out the set 25-22.

The second set was pretty routine, and USC took care of business with a 25-17 win.

In the third set, the Trojans fumbled a bit and allowed Oregon State to run away as the Beavers garnered three blocks and two service aces.

In the final set, the Trojans regrouped with kills from freshman middle blocker Tyrah Ariail and graduate senior middle blocker Candice Denny. It seemed like in the fourth set the Trojans were more cohesive and communicating better.

USC hit .424 in the fourth set and was able to close out the match 25-17.

The Trojans will take on the Washington Huskies and the Washington State Cougars this weekend at Galen Center. The Trojans are looking to avenge a loss from the Huskies this weekend and get a win from a top-10 ranked opponent.