The USC women’s volleyball team is No. 8 in the country, but in a very competitive Pac-10 conference, that ranking is only enough to put the team in a tie for third place. For a USC team with aspirations of winning a conference championship, its current situation must change in order to do so.
Fortunately for USC, an opportunity to move in the right direction presents itself this weekend. The Women of Troy play host to No. 16 Oregon, which is tied with USC in the conference standings, on Friday before facing off against Oregon State on Saturday. These matches mark the beginning of a four-game homestand for USC.
“I think it’s a tremendous opportunity for us,” said USC coach Mick Haley. “To be able to stay home and play is really good if we utilize it right.”
USC has gone 1-1 each of the last three weekends and is currently 4-3 in the Pac-10, but the Women of Troy are not allowing themselves to spend time doting on the past.
“You really don’t have time to cry about losses because you have to turn right around and prepare the next week for the next thing. What we’d like to do is start getting 2-0 wins,” Haley said.
Coming off last weekend’s 3-1 loss against Arizona State and comeback win against No. 25 Arizona, USC’s main focus in practice this week has been on improving.
“We’re continuing to work on our serve receive,” Haley said. “We’ve just looked at the numbers of the seven conference matches we’ve played, and they’re going up in the areas we’re practicing on, so that’s very good.”
In addition, USC is also focused on improving its blocking as well as cutting down on the number of unforced errors, an area that severely hurt the team against Arizona State.
“We’re still trying to figure out why we can’t get our left sides to reduce their [hitting errors], so until they figure this out, we’re going to have a little bit of a problem,” Haley said. “Once we start reducing errors on the left side attack, then I think we’ll be in most matches with a chance to win.”
But Haley knows that no victories come easy in the Pac-10, a conference that has seven ranked teams. He also did not downplay Oregon’s abilities, stressing the fact the team is very good at serving and doesn’t play like every other team.
“Oregon is kind of like the mad scientist,” he said. “They run a lot of different plays, come from a lot of different positions, show you a lot of stuff. Basically, we’ve just got to not panic.”
Haley also praised Oregon for being a very strong serving team, along with Oregon State. The play of both teams is also forcing USC to make some changes in its game plan.
“We have some special defensive work to do for these teams this weekend because they play differently, so we have to change our defenses a little bit to accommodate that,” Haley said.
Although the team has had to make adjustments to prepare for its upcoming opponents, Haley is confident USC can expose some of the other teams’ weaknesses.
“If we can continue to attack the middle effectively and get enough sets to the middle, attackers will cause the others teams — both of these teams — to spread out their defense more,” Haley said. “That would be good for us.”