Volleyball

USC kept up with No. 8 Washington but lost in a narrow fourth set battle

The Trojans had multiple set points throughout the match, but could not seal the deal against the Huskies.

A photo of USC's Raquel Lázaro.

With a higher hitting percentage in each set and more total team blocks than Washington, USC was still unable to pull out a win Friday against the Huskies, falling 3-1 at Galen Center.

The Trojans lost the first two sets 28-26. USC had the opportunity to close out each one, but the team’s communication and cohesiveness on the court were lacking.

“We get so tense and nervous. When I think at the end of sets, that’s when you have to play your most relaxed volleyball and just execute, and just know your job and do your job well,” graduate outside hitter Brooke Botkin said.

Head coach Brad Keller defended his team. He described how the standings and the rankings do not reflect how good this team is and how good this team can be.

“We’re getting closer. We’re getting better,” Keller said. “This team is improving, and I’m getting annoyed. Hopefully at some point, we’re going to start transitioning and getting Ws out of this.”

The match was close the entire time. USC was able to pull ahead in the first set by as many as five points, but the Huskies came back and took set point at 24-22.

USC battled until the very end, tied Washington and saved multiple set points before the Huskies closed out a 28-26 win. Junior outside hitter Kalen Owes had seven kills in the opening set.

The Trojans were able to out-hit the Huskies in this set .250 to .188, but seven service errors prevented them from pulling ahead.

The second set was strikingly similar to the first. USC was going toe-to-toe with the No. 8 team in the country.

The second set was tied 15 times, and USC had multiple chances to win. However, Washington scored the last three points to seal another 28-26 win.

In this set, junior opposite Emilia Weske hit six kills, junior outside hitter Kalen Owes hit five kills, and graduate senior Candice Denny hit four kills. The Trojans ended the set with 19 kills, but still could not come up with the set victory.

The Trojans out-hit the Huskies .295 to .212.

The Trojans came out hungry to not get swept by the Huskies in the third. They garnered a lead as large as seven points before the Huskies caught up and closed the lead to three. With USC getting seven more kills from Owes and four from Botkin, they were able to close out the set with a 25-19 victory.

USC hit .405 with 20 kills to Washington’s .308 and 11 kills.

USC led in the fourth by as many as three points and had five kills from Botkin and four blocks as a team.

But Washington took advantage of each Trojan error to force the fifth tie of the set at 20-all.

The Huskies maintained control the rest of the way despite three more ties to score a 25-23 win to end the match.

Keller said he is disappointed with the loss but understands that team chemistry and cohesiveness takes time for his team to develop.

“You have a team with seven new players that haven’t worked on our systems. Everyone comes from different backgrounds, not a whole lot of time to train, some unforced injuries, and a setter battle. A lot of things were going on throughout the season and nothing was consistent,” Keller said.