In their final matches before Pac-12 play, USC women’s volleyball swept all three of their opponents in the Trojan Challenge this weekend.
The Trojans started off the tournament rocky, finding themselves down three, 24-21, in set one to the New Mexico State Aggies. Despite this hole, the Trojans were able to work their way back into the lead and eventually win the set with some heroics from senior opposite hitter Emilia Weske. Weske ended the match with 11 kills and a .550 hitting percentage.
“Honestly, I wasn’t thinking much,” Weske said. “I was just thinking about what I’m gonna do on the serve, how I’m going to touch the ball and put our opponent under pressure. I really trusted my teammates … I am really proud of my team for battling through those plays because all those were great rallies.”
After the set, the Trojans controlled the match, winning 26-24, 25-17 and 25-16. They only made a combined three attack errors in the second and third sets. USC then carried that momentum into Friday night’s game against the Milwaukee Panthers. The Trojans won the first set 25-14, holding the Panthers to a 0.083 hitting percentage, while USC had a .500 hitting percentage.
The team couldn’t put away the Panthers in the second set, finding themselves taking a timeout down 24-22. They fought back and senior outside hitter Skylar Fields made a huge block to give the Trojans set point.
“[Coach] told us to put in a good serve and watch the slide, so I had to be all over the slide or that was on me,” Fields said. “I did my job as an outside, followed the slide and I jumped when she jumped and it just happened. It was awesome.”
The Trojans won 25-14, 28-26 and 25-17 to wrap up a convincing victory against Milwaukee. Sophomore setter Mia Tuaniga had 40 assists with three service aces in a dominant performance. Junior middle blocker Lindsey Miller also had eight blocks in the win, a season high for her. The team moved on to play the San Jose State Spartans, who were also 2-0, in a Sunday matinee game.
The team swept San Jose 25-21, 25-15 and 25-21 in sets that were competitive throughout. Head coach Brad Keller said that these teams are the types of teams his team needs to play to be ready for conference play.
“Remember that this team has been together since August 8th,” Keller said. “We have 11 new players on this team. So any chance we can touch the volleyball and be around each other and continue to grow, we have to take advantage of that and so teams like this San Jose State team — which is a really good team, really well coached and very disciplined — really gets to test us and get us prepared for the conference.”
The players are excited for conference play this season.
“I’m hella excited,” Weske said. “I can’t wait to play in the Pac-12 again. I think our team is ready. We definitely need to work hard against these tough opponents but I’m ready to get going and be challenged in more different ways.”
USC faces off against UCLA on September 22 at Pauley Pavillion to open up conference play. The Trojans beat the Bruins last season when they met, after a five set thriller on senior day last November.
“Oh I’m so excited for conference play,” Fields said. “I think our team has a good chance of going out there and showing the Pac-12 what we have.”