USC overcomes slow start, wins fourth straight

The Trojans move to 13-4 overall, 5-1 in conference play.

From left to right: Graduate middle blocker Kaylah Williams, sophomore setter Mia Tuaniga and freshman outside hitter Jordan Wilson stand at the net as they def. Arizona State on Sunday 18-25, 25-13, 25-23, 25-16.

USC women’s volleyball beat Arizona State on Sunday at Desert Financial Arena in four sets 18-25, 25-13, 25-23, 25-16.

Senior outside hitter Skylar Fields had a season-best performance, notching 27 kills and accounting for 44% of the total kills for the Trojans. This is the sixth game in a row with at least 20 kills for Fields, which she coupled with a .429 hitting percentage and 12 digs.

“Every game she’s getting better,” head coach Brad Keller said after the game. “She can hit the ball at different points that not a lot of people can do. She has great range and she’s really, really good at hitting out of the back row.”

The Trojans had a slow start to the game after ASU finished a long rally with a block by junior middle blocker Claire Jeter and senior setter Shannon Shields.

The Trojans were up 5-4, but the block started a four-point run for ASU to make it 8-5 and the Trojans never led again, losing the first set by seven points.

This was the first time ASU won the opening set in a Pac-12 match, despite the Trojans being their sixth Pac-12 opponent.

“I thought ASU came out really, really well,” Keller said. “I think the credit goes to them. They put us in a really tough spot.”

The Trojans started off by scoring three points in the second set, with the help of three straight kills by senior opposite hitter Emilia Weske. USC rolled to a 12-point victory in the second set.

“I thought we were pretty gritty,” Keller said. “When you’re able to be gritty and to get back in there, it got us back into the game a little bit and allowed us to find a rhythm into the second set.”

USC scored five straight to open the third. After an attack error by Fields, ASU went on a run to cut into the Trojan lead, making the score 5-3. The Sun Devils fought back and eventually led the Trojans 12-11, which forced the Trojans to call a timeout.

Sophomore middle blocker Katelyn Smith kept it close as she recorded two kills in three points to cut the ASU lead to one. Fields then tied it at 21-21, forcing ASU to call their first timeout.

Although ASU scored right out of the timeout, two errors by ASU senior outside hitter Iman Isanovic led to a 25-23 set victory for USC. This gave the Trojans a 2-1 lead despite ASU’s playmaking ability.

“The third set I thought could have gone either way,” Keller said. “The stats were showing that we were out playing them, but they were making the big plays.”

Although the fourth set started out close, Smith tallied three kills in seven points to help the Trojans extend their lead to 12-8. The Trojans never had a lead less than three points and finished the set with a 25-16 victory.

This marks the fourth straight victory in four sets for USC in conference play.

“We’ve been paying a lot of attention to our blocking defense and transition game, and I think that’s really paid off for us,” Keller said. “It’s giving us secondary swings and third opportunities, fourth opportunities. We’ve been able to capitalize on a lot of those, which can create a lot of momentum.”

The Trojans will look to continue their Pac-12 winning streak as they come home this week to take on No. 12 Oregon Friday and Oregon State Sunday at Galen Center.