Not many teams in any sport ever have to deal with the loss of three two-time All-Americans.
But that’s what the Women of Troy will have to do next season when seniors setter Kendall Bateman, outside hitter Alex Jupiter and middle blocker Lauren Williams are no longer setting records for the women’s volleyball team.
“It always looks bleak about this time of year when you’re losing great seniors,” USC coach Mick Haley said. “We’ll have trouble with replacing all those points [they scored].”
The team’s ultimate goal for the season might not have been met, after USC (29-5) lost to the University of Illinois in the Final Four for the second consecutive year, but the graduating trio’s overall body of work is still impressive.
Jupiter became USC’s first recipient of the American Volleyball Coaches Association National Player of the Year Award and is the program’s all-time leader in kills (1,918) and points (2,255.5). The three-time All-American led the Pac-12 this season with 5.4 points per set while being named the Conference Player of the Year. She also had 32 kills and 12 digs in the Final Four matchup against Illinois.
“Jupiter has been the most durable,” Haley said. “She started for four years, she’s been a dynamic blocker and she’s been a great server. This year, Alex’s output was absolutely amazing.”
Bateman, along with sophomore libero Natalie Hagglund, rounded out USC’s list of first team All-Americans this season after leading the Pac-12 with 12.03 assists per set.
Haley praised Bateman, who was also named the Pac-12 Setter of the Year, for her intangibles.
“Kendall was the leader of the team, without question,” Haley said. “She was our captain for two years. … When you get that kind of leadership, everyone knuckles down.”
Haley also credited Williams for being a quiet, yet still important, leader in the locker room. The fifth-year senior was engaged in a position battle with sophomores Alexis Olgard and Hannah Schraer for most of the season after her blocking took a slight turn for the worse, but Williams never lost her starting spot or her composure.
“This was not her best year blocking,” Haley said of Williams, who still managed to earn third team All-American honors for the second straight year. “[But] she never felt threatened, that was what was interesting.”
Williams leaves USC with a .377 hitting percentage, the second-highest mark in school history.
In the past 12 seasons, since Haley came to USC in 2000, the Women of Troy have won two national championships, four conference championships and have appeared in the Final Four seven times, more than any other program.
In the end, the trio’s legacy — two Final Four berths (three for Williams, who redshirted during the team’s 2007 Final Four appearance) and the first conference championship since 2003 –— may be seen as just another four-year stretch of that successful run.
But Haley says the threesome, and the 2011 squad as a whole, was more than that.
“They’ve raised the bar in so many different areas,” Haley said. “I want people to appreciate them as much as I do. There’s 344 other schools [in Division I] that would like to be where these guys are.”
Fortunately for USC fans, Haley thinks that despite the loss of the trinity of decorated seniors, the Women of Troy’s remaining pieces will combine with the upcoming recruiting class to form yet another formidable squad.
“We’ve only lost nine matches since 2005 in [the Galen Center],” Haley said, referring to the team’s 77-9 home record since the facility opened. “That’s less than two per year. So when you come to a match here, you expect to see us win. … I just think the best is yet to come.”