USC looks to rebound in East Meets West Challenge

Sunny Dong | Daily Trojan
Get served · Graduate student Alexandra Poletto serves against Pepperdine. She helped the Trojans defeat rival UCLA over the weekend.

Coming off losing three out of four duels against rivals UCLA and Pepperdine, the now 2nd-ranked Women of Troy (5-3) will look to bounce back strong in the East Meets West Challenge this Saturday where they will face LSU, Florida State, Florida International and TCU.

Despite the adversity they encountered last week, there was a strong sense within the team that adjusting and refocusing will help them in the long run.

“I definitely think that the adversity we’ve gone though can help us in the long run,” junior Terese Cannon said. “We know that we have a huge target on our back this year and it is good to play teams early in the season. I think it is kind of a wake-up call for us.”

Coming off last week’s matches, the message preached by the players and coaches was “do your job.”

“We need to make sure we take care of our side of the court,” head coach Anna Collier said. “We’ve taken for granted that we’re this great team and haven’t taken care of our own.”

That message was echoed by Cannon.

“A lot of the errors we committed were ones that we can fix and we need to focus on our own sides of the court,” she said.

Though the Trojans had a brutal schedule last weekend, this weekend will be just as difficult with all four of the Trojans’ opponents being ranked in the top 20 of the AVCA Coaches’ Rankings. The Trojans will face a No. 9 ranked LSU squad that many consider to be “on the rise” over the last few years, a TCU team that came into the season ranked 20th, No. 13 ranked Florida International and the No. 5 ranked Florida State Seminoles.

Of the four teams, the biggest challenge the Trojans anticipate this week is the 2016 NCAA runner-up Florida State. The 8-0 Seminoles have been on a tear to begin the season and have yet to drop a second set in any of their matches.

In Florida State, Collier sees an elite squad.

“Florida State is the UCLA, Pepperdine [and] USC of the east coast,” Collier said.

Last season, Florida State reached the semifinals of the Beach Volleyball Championship Tournament.

Though the Seminoles have cemented themselves as a national powerhouse, the Trojans are looking forward to the challenge.

“Florida State is always one of our big rivals of the east coast and I’m excited to play them and the rest of the East Coast schools so that we can get a beat on how they play,” Cannon said.

The East Meets West Challenge will be played at Manhattan Beach, Calif. on March 10-11. The Trojans will face Florida International on Saturday at 10:30 a.m., and then LSU at 12:30 p.m. The following day, USC will square off against Florida State at noon and finish with TCU at 4 p.m.

Next weekend, the Trojans will travel to Honolulu. In the Outrigger Hawai’i Invitational, they will face off against No. 12 Grand Canyon, No. 3 Hawai’i and Nebraska.