Volleyball heads on final road trip

Freshman setter Raquel Lázaro sets the ball up to her teammate in a game at Galen Center. (Emily Smith | Daily Trojan)

After splitting weekend home matchups against Washington and Washington State, the No. 14 USC women’s volleyball team will battle No. 24 Arizona and Arizona State over the weekend.

Arizona enters play on Friday in sixth place in the Pac-12, carrying a 8-8 record in the conference and a 19-9 record overall. The Trojans defeated the Wildcats at home on Oct. 14, 3-1.

Arizona is led by senior outside hitter Kendra Dahlke with 4.95 kills per set on the season. The Wildcats bring a .238 hitting percentage into Friday’s matchup.

USC found success against Arizona State on Oct. 12, coming out on top with a five-set victory over the Sun Devils. Head coach Brent Crouch said the Trojans will take a similar game plan heading into Sunday’s tilt.  

“Arizona State’s really good at hitting high hands and whacking balls off hands out of bounds really far,” Crouch said. “We had to make some adjustments when we played them the last time, shifting our defense back a little bit, and we’ll probably have to do that again.”

Senior outside hitter Alyse Ford leads the Sun Devils with 3.14 kills per set.

Despite the fact that the Sun Devils are unranked and well behind the Trojans in the Pac-12 standings, Crouch sees some strengths in Arizona State. Still, he seemed confident about the Trojans’ ability to pick up the win.

“[ASU is] a good serving team and they’re a good defensive team,” Crouch said. “But our offense is better than their defense.”

USC had a .256 hitting percentage against the Sun Devils in October.

The Women of Troy were missing three starters in both games last weekend, and Crouch said the team is still unsure of their status heading into the road trip.

Crouch will try to balance resting his players with making sure they come out victorious in the last few games as the season winds down.

“It’s going to be tough because we have four matches in seven days to end the season, and we’re just going to have to not practice very much,” Crouch said. “It’s just the way it is — you have to cut hours back. Being healthy is more important than anything else going into the tournament.”

USC will enter the weekend with an 11-5 conference record and only a one game lead on second place in the Pac-12. Oregon and Washington State both currently stand at 10-6, and Washington is just two games back at 9-7. Crouch thinks this alone should provide motivation for his players to bring their A-game into Arizona.

The head coach is not worried about the possibility that the Trojans take their opponents lightly due to their previous success against the two schools.

“I don’t think that’s an issue,” Crouch said. “[The team] knows everyone in the Pac-12 could beat anyone on any given day, and the motivation for finishing strong in the Pac-12 and getting a good seed in the tournament is enough.”

The weekend road trip will be USC’s last of the season, as their following two games are next week at home against Utah Wednesday and at UCLA on Friday. The Trojans have fared well on the road thus far, sporting a 7-3 record in away contests compared to 9-3 at the Galen Center.

As Crouch stressed, the Trojans will look to close in on the No. 2 seed for the Pac-12 tournament. Two wins this weekend would increase USC’s already high chances of that second spot, as next week’s schedule features two favorable matchups against Utah and UCLA.

Friday’s game will begin at 5 p.m. in Tuscon, Arizona. Sunday’s match will start at 3:30 p.m. and will be televised on Pac-12 Network.