Fresh off of their trip to the desert, the No. 19 women’s volleyball team (13-4, 5-1 Pac-12) is back in the Galen Center this week to host Cal (11-6, 2-4) on Friday and No. 3 Stanford (13-2, 6-0) on Sunday.
Arizona swept USC last Friday, handing the Trojans their first Pac-12 conference loss and snapping their five-game winning streak — but USC bounced back to beat Arizona State in four sets. The Trojans will return to the Galen Center, where they own an undefeated 5-0 record on home court this season, for this week’s games.
“The good thing is we’ve been pretty good at home, in every one of the matches we played here at home this year, and so I’m hoping that they’ll do the same thing getting ready for Cal on Friday night,” head coach Mick Haley said. “That’s a big one: We gotta play Cal first, and if we can beat Cal on Friday night, then we’ll worry about Stanford on Sunday. But Cal is the big focus right now.”
The Women of Troy will once again lean on a balanced offense spearheaded by senior opposite hitter Brittany Abercrombie. While the team struggled against the Wildcats, the Trojans regained their offensive composure against the Sun Devils, where four players recorded double-digit kills for USC, led by Abercrombie’s team-high 18 kills.
The team also received a boost from senior opposite hitter Niki Withers, sophomore outside hitter Khalia Lanier, sophomore opposite hitter Daley Krage and senior middle blocker Danielle Geiger, who combined for 43 kills against Arizona State. Senior setter Reni Mayer-Whalley and sophomore setter Cindy Marina look to assist the team in setting up attacking opportunities. Expect the offense to revolve around an equal distribution of attacking opportunities much like it did against Arizona State.
The Golden Bears are led by a trio of offensive threats. Senior outside hitter Antzela Dempi has 2.89 kills per set with 179 total kills, junior outside hitter Carmen Annevelink has 2.53 kills per set and 157 kills while freshman outside hitter Mima Mirkovic sports 2.63 kills per set with 163 total kills.
The Golden Bears are looking to bounce back against USC after suffering two straight sweeps against Oregon and Oregon State. However, the odds are stacked against them, as they are 2-4 against Pac-12 opponents and are only 1-5 on the road this season, whereas USC has a perfect 5-0 home record this season and owns a 144-30 all-time record in the Galen Center.
After a day’s break, the Women of Troy will be back in the Galen Center to face off against Pac-12 volleyball giant No. 3 Stanford. The Trojan defense has to prepare adequately against sophomore outside hitter Kathryn Plummer, who is averaging an astonishing 4.76 kills per set and has accumulated a total of 238 kills.
Plummer’s kills per set rank 9th in Division I women’s volleyball. She is supported by sophomore middle blocker Audriana Fitzmorris and redshirt senior opposite hitter Merete Lutz, who are averaging 2.20 and 2.76 kills per set, respectively.
Other notable offensive threats from the Cardinal include redshirt freshman outside hitter Michaela Keefe (1.91 kills per set), freshman outside hitter Meghan McClure (1.80 kills per set) and junior middle blocker Tami Alade (1.72 kills per set). The offensive firepower from Stanford will be key to setting the tone for the game. The Cardinal’s defense is anchored by Fitzmorris and Alade, who average 1.44 and 1.48 blocks per set, respectively, and will prove to be a tough challenge for the Trojans’ offense. The Women of Troy will have a monumental task in trying to contain the visiting No. 3 Cardinal.
“October is always the hardest month for us to compete, so I’m hoping that what we learned in the past will help us through this, and I’m hoping we can come up with a couple of wins this weekend,” Haley said.
The Trojans have had their fair share of tough challenges from several other opponents, but Sunday’s game against No. 3 Stanford will be one of the biggest games of the season. The Women of Troy will host the Golden Bears at 7 p.m. Friday and the Cardinal at 3 p.m. on Sunday.