The No. 1 USC women’s volleyball team has stayed focused throughout conference play, rarely letting any team rattle the Women of Troy on their quest to exact revenge upon UCLA in the season finale after losing in straight sets in the conference opener at home.
Before USC gets that chance, it has just one more weekend to get through.
The Women of Troy (22-4, 17-2) face Arizona State and Arizona Friday and Saturday in their final home matches of the regular season, as USC tries to cling to its slim one-game Pac-12 lead over the Bruins ahead of its showdown against UCLA on Nov. 25.
The Bruins slipped up last weekend against Oregon, and USC leap-frogged their crosstown rivals to top the conference standings and the national rankings.
“Going at this one match at a time, trying to get better each match, is really the only way to approach this,” USC coach Mick Haley said. “We’ve been very good about staying focused on Arizona and Arizona State.”
But he does admit the thought of the season finale could be creeping into his players’ minds.
“I’m sure there’s a little anticipation for the Bruins because we played so badly against them last time, and we want to have another shot against those guys,” Haley said. “But that hasn’t come up.”
For that winner-take-all match to take place, USC will probably have to win at least one of their matches this weekend against the Arizona schools.
Arizona State (8-19, 4-14), which Haley has called “the scariest team in the Pac-12” is currently riding its first three-game winning streak of the season.
The Sun Devils rank in the bottom half of nearly every statistical category in the Pac-12, but do boast sophomore libero Stephanie Preach, who leads the conference with 5.21 digs per set, and sophomore outside hitter Ashley Kastl, who ranks seventh with 3.93 kills per set.
“Arizona State has been giving everybody fits,” Haley said. “Their coach [Jason Watson] has got them going for it every night.”
The Women of Troy beat the Sun Devils earlier this season on the road, but Arizona State did manage to steal a set.
They are the only Pac-12 team besides UCLA to have not been swept by USC this season.
Arizona (17-10, 9-9) will hope to earn that distinction as well on Saturday night, which is also USC’s Senior Night.
The Wildcats are on the bubble of qualifying for the NCAA tournament and will be looking for a big win to add to their resume.
Freshman Madi Kingdon leads Arizona with 3.42 kills per set, which ranks 10th in the Pac-12.
“They had a little dip because [Kingdon] got hurt for a little while, but I think she’s back to being healthy now,” Haley said. “So I think they’re going to be back at full force. [Kingdon] is the one you really have to deal with.”
Haley is expecting a big crowd for Senior Night with Galen Center officials letting everyone in for free Saturday before the match to watch the football team’s big game against Oregon on the overhanging scoreboard.
Senior All-Americans outside hitter Alex Jupiter, setter Kendall Bateman and middle blocker Lauren Williams will also be honored before the start of Saturday night’s game.
Both games this weekend start at 7 p.m.