Women of Troy face test in rival UCLA

The No. 6 USC women’s volleyball team can only hope that conference play will be as successful as their non-conference game.

USC will begin an intense Pac-10 season this Friday, when it hosts crosstown rival UCLA at the Galen Center.

Giving a lift · Junior setter Kendall Bateman had 41 assists with two kills and one ace to lead the Women of Troy over Irvine last Tuesday. - Tim Tran | Daily Trojan

So far, the 11-0 Women of Troy have cruised through the season and swept nine of their opponents. But their non-conference schedule was a little more forgiving than the one that lies ahead.

The Pac-10 is quite the power conference, with six teams ranked in the top 25.

UCLA has an impressive ranking at No. 11 in the country, but of the 10 teams ahead of the Bruins, four are in the Pac-10.

Although the competition is fierce, the Women of Troy remain confident in their abilities.

“I think we have an outside chance to win the conference,” said USC coach Mick Haley. “We’re young, and if our youth doesn’t get too excited about it, I think we’re in the hunt.”

A number of different players have stepped up for the Women of Troy so far this season. Outside hitter Alex Jupiter recorded 13 kills and no errors Tuesday night against UC Irvine. In Saturday night’s match against Sacramento State, outside hitters Falyn Fonoimoana and Katie Fuller both had 10 kills.

“It’s pretty interesting to see who steps up in each of these matches,” Haley said. “I have no idea who will be the next one to step up Friday night.”

Despite the depth of his team and the nature of the heated rivalry between USC and UCLA, Haley was quick to praise the Bruins.

“[UCLA] might be a little undersized on the outside in a position or two, but they make up for it with some really great defense and hustle,” Haley said. “All the numbers on paper would indicate our teams are pretty much even.”

Haley also feels his team’s immense success will not prevent  the Women of Troy from being ready for this Friday’s matchup.

“I don’t think we’ll get overconfident,” Haley said. “What I hope is that we don’t get too jacked up for the match because they’re actually looking forward to the competition, and that’s the sign of a really good team.”

Even though it doesn’t seem like the Women of Troy have been tested much this year, they still have a lot of room for growth.

“We’ve got a whole laundry list of things we’re working on, but it’s always the serving and passing. You’re always trying to improve in that area — always trying to improve your defense,” Haley said.

Although USC has a slight all-time edge over UCLA, with 49 victories compared to the Bruins’ 45, UCLA has won the last three matches and six of the last eight.

“I think our kids will be all fired up,” Haley said. “They’ll be excited to play,”