This weekend, the women’s volleyball team will travel to Oregon to play both the Oregon Ducks and the Oregon State Beavers. On Friday, the team will face Oregon for their first match back since their tough loss to Arizona.
The Trojans appeared to be missing focus and concentration against Arizona, who swept them 3-0 last week. While talented, USC is young and its inexperience has been a hindrance at times. Senior libero Taylor Whittingham is a superb defensive backbone — just three digs away from being fifth all time at USC in career digs — but if the communication between her and the other players on the court is missing, it is difficult for the team to have a solid chance on the offensive front.
Head coach Mick Haley said the mistakes are fixable.
“We didn’t play all that badly,” he said. “If we raise our game in a couple of areas and don’t make timely errors like we did — like a serving error at a real critical time — those kinds of things take the wind out of your sails.”
Oregon is ranked No. 16, with a 12-3 record and coming off a sweep of No. 10 Washington State, holding them to 10 and 14 points, respectively, in the last two sets.
“They’re playing at really the highest level you can play,” Haley said on Oregon’s success thus far.
Though Oregon will be a tough opponent, the Trojans are 5-0 on the road this season. This is unusual, as typically teams prefer having the homecourt advantage, regardless of the sport — USC is 6-6 at home.
“It might be that when you’re on the road, you have less distractions,” Haley said. “You have everyone together you can stay focused.”
Freshman Khalia Lanier continues to stand out, with eight double-doubles for the season. She was instrumental in the win over Arizona State, with a career high of 22 kills during the match. So far, she is the only freshman to make top 10 in the Pac-12 conference in two categories: kills and points per set. With small tweaks in their game, the Trojans should see more success this weekend.
“We want to focus on the things that can help us a little bit better,” Haley said. “Serving, for sure, better passing, and our defense starts at the net, so our net blocking.”
Oregon State is 8-9 on the season and 1-5 in conference play. Key players for the Beavers include junior outside hitter Mary-Kate Marshall, sophomore libero Kayla Ellis and redshirt sophomore setter and outside hitter McKenna Hollingsworth.
“They continue to get better and better,” Haley said. “They’re only 1-5 in the conference, but we’ve been watching and they’re playing better each time. They’ll be at home on Sunday, and we can’t have a let down.”
Both games will be televised on the Pac-12 Network.