USC to battle Oregon, Oregon State
As a result of its current eight-match win streak, the USC womenâs volleyball team has climbed to the top of the Pac-12 standings.
After consecutive road trips, No. 3 USC (13-3, 8-1) returns home to the friendly confines of the Galen Center for two straight weekends.
âItâs always better to be at home,â USC coach Mick Haley said. âBut we canât relax. Itâs where you finish at the end of the conference schedule thatâs most important.â
For the first time since 2002, USC didnât play a single home match during the non-conference schedule, as it had to play six of its first nine conference matches on the road.
Since they won all six road matches, the Women of Troy have given themselves the chance to defend their first-place Pac-12 standing where they want to â at home.
âWeâre taking care of business right now,â Haley said. âWe just have to keep our intensity and stay together.â
On Friday, USC will take on No. 16 Oregon, which was swept by California last weekend before falling in four sets to Stanford.
âWhile they didnât fare well this weekend, they are a very good team,â Haley said. âWe know they can score, so weâre going to have to defend really well.â
The Ducks (12-4, 5-3) featureÂ junior outside hitter Alaina Bergsma, who ranks second in the Pac-12 in kills per set (4.83 kps), and sophomore setter Lauren Plum, who ranks second in the Pac-12 with 11.70 assists per set.
â[Plum] really throws it around in a fast system, and Bergsma has been unstoppable,â Haley said. â[Bergsma] is name of the game for them. If she can carry a heavy load, they can play really well.â
Both USC and Oregon played Minnesota and Penn State to start their seasons in the AVCA Showcase, with varying results against both teams.
USC beat Minnesota in five sets while losing to Penn State in five, and Oregon lost to Minnesota in five sets but beat Penn State in four.
The Women of Troy have won their last five matches against Oregon, and havenât lost to the Ducks at home since 1990.
USC will then face Oregon State on Saturday night, in a match that could potentially be the squadâs 10th straight win.
The Beavers (11-7, 3-5) have lost their last four matches, including consecutive four-set losses at home last weekend to Cal and Stanford.
But the squad doesnât have any jitters about playing on the road; it has a 4-2 record when it plays away from its home arena in Corvallis.
âTheyâre flying under the radar, and playing better than people know,â Haley said. âThey have a different system [than Oregon], itâll be difficult to plan for them.â
Oregon Stateâs offense has struggled this year, as the Beavers rank 10th in the Pac-12 in hitting percentage (.188), ninth in assists (11.23 aps) and ninth in kills (12.27 kps).
But the Beavers have showed some fight on defense, as they are fourth in the Pac-12 in digs (15.49 digs per set), sixth in blocks (2.49 digs per set) and fifth in opponent hitting percentage (.174).
âTheyâre a much improved, more athletic team [from last year],â Haley said. âThey have some young players that are playing really well.â
The Women of Troy have also won their last five matches against the Beavers, and havenât fallen at home to them since 1996.
Though USC has matched the 2003 national championship squad with seven consecutive conference wins, Haley thinks the team has to improve in fundamental areas to get to the level of that championship squad.
âThe difference between those two teams is that [the 2003 team] played really outstanding defense,â Haley said. âWeâre not as good as that team yet, but we could be changing that by the end of the year.â
Both matches against the Oregon teams start at 7 p.m. at the Galen Center.