The No. 16 women’s volleyball team will head to San Diego this Friday to take on Louisiana and No. 23 San Diego in the SDSU/USD Challenge.
The Trojans are coming off of a rough weekend in Milwaukee where they lost to then-No. 3 Brigham Young University and tournament host Marquette but secured a win in their third match of the weekend against Syracuse. This pair of losses came in spite of some impressive performances, including 13 kills each in the BYU match by three Trojan outside hitters: sophomore Brooke Botkin and juniors Khalia Lanier and Emily Baptista. The Women of Troy finished out the tournament in a positive fashion by winning three sets in a row against Syracuse by large margins.
Another tournament away from home provides a challenge for the Trojans, especially considering that their second opponent, the University of San Diego, has the advantage of playing in front of its home crowd. The Toreros’ poor overall record of 2-4, including a 2-2 record at home, doesn’t seem to fit its Top 25 NCAA ranking. This apparent contradiction in record and ranking is indicative of the formidable opponents which they have already faced, including UCLA. This weekend, USD will be seeking to prove themselves deserving of the No. 23 spot after conceding a match to unranked Tennessee last weekend.
The Ragin’ Cajuns of Louisiana are not to be ignored, as they have bolstered their squad with the addition of seven new players in the offseason. Louisiana has posted a record of 7-4 so far this season, although this match will be their first of the season against a Pac-12 team. Among the leaders of their attack is sophomore outside hitter Hali Wisnoskie, who garnered several awards for her standout performance last season, including Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year. Wisnoskie currently boasts 131 kills among 378 total attacks.
The Trojans aim to combat the potent offenses of the San Diego and Louisiana squads with the talent and athleticism of their own players. They will look to freshman setter Raquel Lázaro, a two-time Pac-12 Freshman of the Week, as the linchpin of their defensive effort once again. The leadership of Lanier, who earned an MVP distinction for the Trojan Invitational, will also remain essential for a young team playing away from home.
The SDSU/USD Challenge this Friday marks the end of tournament play for the Women of Troy this season as they begin to face Pac-12 opponents. So far, the Trojans have earned a record of 6-3 in tournament play while facing fierce competition such as No. 1 BYU.
After Friday’s tournament, the Women of Troy will return home to play UCLA on Sept. 19. The Bruins are tied for the No. 16 in the NCAA rankings with the Trojans, after being swept by Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in a two-game series on the road. Last season, USC defeated UCLA in their first meeting, while they lost in three sets at the Galen Center two months later. This season, the Bruins are also a young squad with two freshman starters: setter and opposite hitter Hawley Harrer and setter Devon Chang.
The Trojans will face Louisiana at noon on Friday before playing San Diego at 6 p.m. They then face their toughest opponent of the week, UCLA, at 8 p.m. on Wednesday.