After starting the season 12-0, the USC women’s volleyball team must now add a tally to its loss column.
The Women of Troy saw their undefeated season come to an end Friday night after losing to No. 10 Washington in five sets, 25-22, 25-22, 15-25, 18-25, 15-5. It was USC’s sixth straight loss in Seattle.
USC went down two sets early but quickly fought back. It convincingly won game three and broke a 10-10 tie in game four after five straight points behind senior outside hitter Geena Urango’s serve, eventually tying the match at 2-2.
However, the Women of Troy were not able to keep that momentum upon entering the fifth and final set. They lost the clinching game and subsequently the match.
“We won games three and four pretty easily and then never got started in five,” USC coach Mick Haley said. “It was really disappointing because I felt we were the better team. Statistics showed we were the better team and we really let Washington steal one.”
Junior outside hitter Alex Jupiter led USC with 23 kills. Freshman outside hitter Falyn Fonoimoana added 16 kills.
“I really wanted to practice being able to handle [Washington’s] intensity, and I didn’t think we did that very well,” Haley said. “Then when we relaxed, I think we just roared through them, kind of took them out of their own game and their own gym, only to come back in the short game, game five, and just not be able to function.”
When the Women of Troy won the third and fourth games, Haley said he was confident about his team’s chances of coming away with the conference victory.
“I thought we were in total control of the match,” Haley said. “Then we tried too hard in game five again, and it was just a shame.”
After Friday’s defeat, the Women of Troy did not have much time to reflect. They travelled to Pullman to face the Washington State Cougars just a day after the loss.
After being down 8-7 early in the first set, USC won eight straight points behind junior setter Kendall Bateman’s serve, pushing the score to 15-8. After that, USC never faltered, sweeping the Cougars 25-15, 25-17, 25-19.
Jupiter led the team with 19 kills, along with three aces, six blocks and only three unforced errors, hitting .516 in the match. After the game, Haley could do nothing but praise his All-American outside hitter.
“Jupiter came on big time. [Friday] night, she had a lot of kills, but she had 10 unforced errors. [On Saturday], she did a much much better in that regard,” Haley said. “All in all, she just dominated the opposition.”
It was not just Jupiter who committed too many unforced errors this weekend. Haley identified that as one of the biggest problems his team faced.
“It’s just the unforced hitting errors that I think [we need to] work on being a little bit smarter, a little more in control,” Haley said. “I think as we talk about that in practice and design drills to work on that. I think we’ll get a lot better there.”
Although unforced errors proved to be the team’s Achilles’ heel this weekend, there was one very positive aspect of USC’s play — serving.
“We had 19 aces in two days in Pac-10 competition,” Haley said. “That’s tremendous serving on our part. We served at the highest level we’ve ever served at since I’ve been here at USC.”
The Women of Troy will look to get back on track for next weekend, as they host No. 1 Stanford and No. 8 California at the Galen Center.