The No. 12 USC women’s volleyball team had a shaky start at the Michigan State University Showcase tournament but managed to leave with two sweeps on the last day of competition.
The Women of Troy lost their season opener against tournament host Michigan State in five sets (23-25, 27-25, 25-18, 22-25, 15-9) but bounced back the following day, sweeping North Carolina (25-11, 25-22, 25-16) and Albany (25-16, 25-14, 25-21).
The Spartans outhit the Women of Troy .248 to .167 in Friday’s tournament opener. USC built a 17-11 lead in the first set, but a hitting error by junior outside hitter Kimmee Roleder allowed Michigan State to close the gap. USC pulled out the first set, but the Spartans responded to win the next two sets behind competitive play.
It looked like the Spartans would take the fourth set as well after the Women of Troy committed three hitting errors in a row. But senior outside hitter Jessica Gysin tied the score at 20-20, and sophomore outside hitter Alex Jupiter used her powerful kill and blocking to break the tie and give USC the chance to head to one more set.
The chance alone was not enough to give the USC the win, however. The Spartans ran away with the lead in the final set, despite sophomore setter Kendall Bateman and Jupiter’s best efforts.
Jupiter showcased a team-high 20 kills and 14 digs while hitting .250 in the loss. Gysin contributed 17 kills and nine digs, and Bateman had a career-high 55 assists to go along with five digs and two blocks. USC also debuted three freshman players: outside hitter Katie Fuller and defensive specialists Carolyn Hillgren and Erin Yoder.
Saturday proved to be a better day for USC. In the second game of the tournament against North Carolina, Jupiter once again led her team with 11 kills, while four other Women of Troy had eight or more kills. USC started the match with a 10-8 lead in the first set, when Roleder, junior middle blocker Zoe Garrett and junior defensive specialist Geena Urango took a lead and ran with it.
Jupiter and Garrett stole the lead from the Tarheels with a few intense kills in the second set, giving the Women of Troy a 2-0 advantage heading into the third set.
It was all smooth sailing from there for USC, as it used a 5-1 run to build an 11-6 lead and finish off the match.
The team only had a few hours to rest before it was at it again, competing in its last match of the tournament against Albany. where USC’s positive energy traveled right into the next game.
Roleder had 11 kills against the Great Danes and hit an impressive .526. Jupiter also had 11 kills and added three service aces. Urango chipped in two more aces, as well as six digs and eight kills.
USC hit .356 and recorded seven aces in the match, while holding Albany to .187 hitting.
The Women of Troy head back to Los Angeles to play their first home game next weekend, where they will host the Holiday Inn LA City Center Trojan Invitational. Their first match is Thursday against Florida Gulf Coast, 7 p.m. at the Galen Center.