Coming into the weekend with only one Pac-10 road win all year, the No. 15 USC women’s volleyball team had something to prove in its last two away matches of the season.
The Women of Troy did just that.
Behind the strong play of their middles and a solid defensive attack, the Women of Troy swept away both No. 18 Oregon and Oregon State at the Galen Center to show the rest of the conference that USC might just be peaking at the right time.
“These wins were pretty big, especially because we played extremely well,” USC coach Mick Haley said. “We have self-confidence. We’re more physical and we’re focused.”
Led by junior middle blocker Audrey Eichler and senior outside hitter Jessica Gysin, USC (19-9, 8-8) swept the Beavers 3-0 (25-21, 25-19, 25-17) Saturday to finish its weekend sweep.
Eichler and Gysin both had 13 kills to lead the team against the Beavers. Eichler and fellow middle blocker sophomore Lauren Williams provided a dominant effort for the Women of Troy, as they played strong in the middle to help set up USC’s defensive attack. Williams hit .667 on the evening with nine kills.
“Eichler is not as powerful as Williams, but she is an excellent blocker and continues to improve her offense. Williams is really physical,” Haley said. “When they play well, that just puts so much pressure on the teams that are big outside hitting teams.”
Sophomore setter Kendall Bateman produced another consistent effort with 40 assists and five digs while outside hitter Alex Jupiter recorded a double-double with 11 kills and 10 digs to go with four blocks (three solo).
Jill Sawatzky and Rachel Rourke had 10 kills each for Oregon State (12-16, 3-13).
The sweep was the second in two days for the Women of Troy as they defeated the Ducks 3-0, (25-22, 25-18, 25-19) Friday night behind the strong play of Jupiter.
The sophomore racked up 22 kills, 12 digs and four blocks to lead her team to its first win in Eugene, Ore., since 2006.
Bateman, who leads the nation in assists per set, set the pace for the USC offense with 40 assists, five digs and three block assists. Williams had eight kills to go with seven blocks (one solo, six assisted), and Gysin added eight kills and eight blocks.
Katherine Fischer and Heather Meyers had 11 kills each for Oregon (16-9, 6-9), but Meyers had 11 hitting errors on the night.
Jupiter started a key run in the first set at 17-17 as USC scored four straight for the eventual win. Williams and Jupiter stuffed a Meyers kill attempt in the second set to make it 13-10 and would close out with the 12-8 run.
Gysin’s kill broke a 14-14 tie in the third set, setting up a 20-16 lead to finish the sweep of the Ducks.
“We’ve upped our game,” Haley said. “From the second week of October, we’ve gotten better every week. I was really impressed with our blocking and our defense, and Bateman is really the real deal. If she’s not the best [setter] in the country, she’s certainly one of the two or three best.”
USC, riding a four-match winning streak, concludes its season this weekend when it hosts Arizona and Arizona State at the Galen Center. Following the matches, the NCAA selection committee will draw tournament positions on Sunday.