Volleyball faces top-10 challenges back-to-back

After two wins last weekend, including one against Washington, the team that handed USC its first loss of the season, the USC women’s volleyball team is feeling pretty confident.

However, the No. 7 Women of Troy do not have much time to celebrate their recent victories, as they have to prepare for two very difficult upcoming battles, both on the road.

Staying focused · Junior setter Kendall Bateman and the Women of Troy will face the top of the Pac-10 in Cal and Stanford this weekend. - Tim Tran | Daily Trojan

USC will face No. 2 California tonight at 7 p.m. before playing No. 3 Stanford on Sunday at 1 p.m. The Cardinal beat USC in the first matchup between the teams earlier in the season, while the Women of Troy handed the California Golden Bears their only loss of the season.

“We’ve got a win over Cal and Cal wants to rectify that,” said USC coach Mick Haley. “They’re going to throw everything at us.”

Despite the fact that USC has already beaten Cal, the Women of Troy are far from overconfident.

“We’ll be on the road at their place — they’ll have the advantages. We’ll see if we can handle the noise,“ Haley said. “Certainly expect a heck of a fight against Cal.”

Although Cal is hoping for revenge against the Women of Troy, USC is hoping to earn some redemption points of its own.

“The last time we played Stanford here, we felt like we should have done better against them,” Haley said. “I think we’ve got something to prove.”

The Pac-10 is full of competition this season, with seven of the teams currently ranked in the top-25. With such a tight race, Haley cannot deny how significant it would be if the Women of Troy went 2-0 this weekend.

“Obviously if you could steal two wins on the road against the second- and third-place teams in the country, we would have a chance to win the conference,” Haley said.

One of the main traits of this year’s team has been its youth, which could sometimes be seen as a disadvantage, especially when every night of competition is intense. USC currently posts six freshmen on its roster, though Haley said his team is not nearly as “youthful” as it was just a few weeks ago.

“I think freshmen are not freshmen too much anymore. They pretty much have settled in,” Haley said. “They’re pretty comfortable, and now they’re starting to compete really well.”

Although there are facets of the game the Women of Troy still need to improve in — passing, blocking and defense in particular — Haley seemed pretty pleased with his team’s performance during practice this past week.

“They were alert. They were physical. Their intensity was good, so I think they’re excited about playing this weekend,” Haley said.

Although the anticipation and hype surrounding this weekend’s matches are high, Haley said he wants to make sure his team remains focused and doesn’t look too far ahead.

“We have to take them one at a time and see what happens, and if we’re fortunate to come out with two wins, then we’ll start talking about playing for the conference championship,” Haley said.