USC squares off against UCLA in Pac-12 opener

The No. 9 USC women’s volleyball team is just glad to be back.

Talent · Senior outside hitter Alex Jupiter leads the Women of Troy with 112 kills and 128.5 points through seven games this season. - Daily Trojan file photo

After seven games away from the friendly confines of Galen Center to start the season, the Women of Troy (5-2), who opened the season with road trips to University Park, Penn. and south Florida, return to their home court for their home opener Friday against No. 8 UCLA.

It won’t be easy.

Though riding a four-game winning streak, including four straight sweeps, USC faces a UCLA team that has won six of its first seven games.

“It was a rough road trip, but I think it was really good for the younger girls to gain experience,” senior outside hitter Alex Jupiter said. “Still, we’re glad we’re back at home.”

Jupiter, who leads the team in kills and points, will be counted upon for her experience, as the Women of Troy look to contend with UCLA’s outside hitter Rachel Kidder, who remains among the best in the Pac-12.

This week Kidder was nominated for the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week, and as with Jupiter, Kidder leads the team in kills and points. She not only provides an offensive presence but makes her mark on defense, ranking second on the team in digs.

Though Kidder might rank as the Bruins’ top talent, they also boast a three-headed monster on the outside with Tabi Love and Kelly Reeves, who rank second and third, respectively on the team in kills.

After its last match, a five-set thriller, which resulted in a loss to Pepperdine, UCLA is looking to bounce back, adding more fuel to an already-heated rivalry.

The Women of Troy are hoping to combat a motivated Bruins squad by looking to get some more production from the rest of their roster beyond Jupiter — something USC coach Mick Haley has preached all season.

Junior outside hitter/opposite Katie Fuller, who finished with seven kills Tuesday against Cal State Northridge, could provide a lift.

“I’m really excited … especially for the younger girls coming home for this,” Jupiter said when asked about the significance of the rivalry. “It’s a great experience with a packed crowd, and everything is just so intense.”

Freshman setter/opposite Emily Young is also making strides on the left side and has impressed Haley.

“In the middle we’re going to go with [senior middle blocker Lauren] Williams and [freshman middle blocker] Hannah Schraer, who we need to step up for us, especially with [sophomore middle blocker] Alexis Olgard not healthy,” Haley said.

The first 5,000 fans in attendance for the match will receive a free “Spike The Bruins” T-shirt as USC looks to set a new women’s volleyball attendance record.