The No. 15 USC women’s volleyball team’s winning streak continued last weekend, as the Women of Troy swept both the Portland Pilots (25-22, 25-15, 25-13) and the Fresno State Bull Dogs (25-12, 25-20, 25-13) in their final non-conference games of the season at the Galen Center.
“We’re getting comfortable,” said head coach Mick Haley. “Getting our confidence. The competition wasn’t Pac-10 caliber [last weekend], but both teams played real hard against us. I just think we’re starting to gel and execute better and relax a little.”
USC opened Friday evening’s match against Portland without two of its starters, as Jessica Gysin was nursing a hamstring injury and Kimmee Roleder was out with the flu. But freshman Katie Fuller stepped in to produce a team-high 10 kills, hitting .471 in the match.
Sophomore middle blocker Lauren Williams excelled in the game against the Pilots as well, with a total of nine kills, hitting .438 and five block assists.
Sophomore Alex Jupiter continued to post bold numbers on the young season, as she compiled eight kills, nine digs and a career-high seven blocks. Senior libero Alli Hillgren also achieved a season-high of 20 digs for the evening.
After a shaky start in the second set, with USC falling behind the Pilots 4-1, the Women of Troy answered with a 7-2 run and back-to-back blocks to gain the lead. A couple more errors kept the set close until the end when Portland’s 12 errors gave USC the 2-0 set advantage.
Portland’s errors continued to be helpful for the Women of Troy, and with a 7-1 run and two kills by Fuller, USC was able to gain their ninth sweep of the season. Saturday’s run in with the Fresno State Bulldogs had the same outcome for USC, as it notched its 10th sweep of the season.
The Bulldogs fell to 7-5, as the Women of Troy hit .326 against their foes. Jupiter earned USC 20.5 points, along with 17 kills, eight digs, three service aces and one block, while hitting .452.
Williams continued to excel in Saturday’s game, driving in eight kills and four blocks, and sophomore setter Kendall Bateman landed 36 assists and three blocks.
Geena Urango and Williams started the game with two sharp kills in the first set, and, along with Bateman, nailed down a stuff block to give USC a 9-4 lead. Jupiter recorded two kills, opening a 16-8 USC lead, and the Women of Troy closed out the set with an 8-1 run, hitting .435.
Fuller continued her strong freshman effort by starting the second set with a five-point rally that helped USC gain a 2-0 set advantage. Haley was encouraged by the way Fuller and her freshmen classmates stepped up this weekend to fill in for Gysin’s and Roleder’s absences.
“[Erin] Yoder had a great second game [against Fresno State]. Fuller filled in for Roleder and did a marvelous job,” Haley said. “We also got a chance to use Kelly Irvin. She did a nice job for us also.”
Once again, Jupiter helped USC rack up the points with a kill and an ace on two straight points to tear the third and final set away from the Bulldogs 25-13, giving USC its 11th straight win.
After finishing with an impressive record throughout their first 12 games of the season, the Women of Troy look to bring their success into Pac-10 Conference play next weekend in Arizona. USC will take on Arizona on Friday, Sept. 25, and Arizona State on Saturday, Sept. 26, in what should present two tough matches for Haley’s squad.
“We got a heck of a match from Arizona … and Arizona State,” Haley said. “I expect [both Arizona and Arizona State] to play as well as we can play when we get over there. I expect a big crowd. I expect the matches to be very intense.”