Women’s volleyball faces critical road trip

Sophomore setter Jenna Adams returns a ball for the Trojans in a game against Utah at the Galen Center. Photo by Tucker Judkins | Daily Trojan

The No. 14 women’s volleyball team hits the road for two of its final three regular-season road matchups at No. 4 Stanford and Cal on Wednesday and Friday.

USC (20-7, 12-4 Pac-12) is coming off a five-match win streak, tying its longest of the season. The first time the Trojans met the Golden Bears (13-14, 4-12 Pac-12), USC won in four sets. Two days later, when they played the Cardinal (22-3, 15-1 Pac-12), Stanford won in four sets.

For Stanford, a win against the Trojans would mean that Stanford would clinch its first Pac-12 title since 2014. Sitting at 12-4, USC has a one match hold over Washington for second place. If the Trojans beat the Cardinal, USC could have a chance to tie for the title if it wins out its season.

To give the Cardinal their second conference loss of the season, USC will need to rely upon sophomore outside hitter Khalia Lanier. This past week, Lanier was named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week and the AVCA National Player of the Week. It’s Lanier’s third conference award and her first AVCA National award, and USC’s 10th in program history.

Lanier picked up 38 kills while hitting .319 and averaging 4.22 kills per set in the team’s four-set win over then-ranked No. 15 Utah and five-set win over then-ranked No. 25 Colorado.

Other than Lanier, USC continues to depend on senior opposite Brittany Abercrombie. The senior put up 27 kills this past weekend. Freshman outside hitter Brooke Botkin put up 24 kills while hitting .256. Senior opposite Niki Withers put up 21 kills while hitting .304.

The team’s balanced attack helped to push the Trojans over the Utes and Buffaloes this past weekend. To try and top the Cardinal, they’ll need a continued presence from the four pin-hitters.

For the Cardinal, USC will need to limit sophomore outside hitter Kathryn Plummer. Against the Washington schools, Plummer put up 48 kills while hitting .329. She is the Cardinal’s go-to offensive weapon. While it could be tough to limit Plummer, USC could focus on making an impact at the net against the rest of Stanford’s hitters, similar to what the Huskies did in their four-set win over the Cardinal — their first of the season — just a week ago.

To top the Golden Bears, the Trojans will need to shut down senior outside hitter Antzela Dempi. The senior hit 29 kills against the Washington schools. She also put up four service aces. The last time the two teams faced each other, Dempi put up 12 kills.

With four regular-season matches to go, the Women of Troy should be able to hit their stride as they prep for the NCAA Tournament.

After the matches against Stanford and Cal, USC heads out to Oregon to face the Ducks before hosting UCLA for its final regular match of the season.

At Maples Pavilion on Wednesday, the Cardinal and the Troajns will celebrate Equality Night, where they will celebrate inclusion and diversity in sports. First serve will be at 7 p.m. On Friday, the Women of Troy play the Golden Bears at 6 p.m.