USC women’s volleyball team looks to find its rhythm on difficult road trip

The No. 16 USC women’s volleyball team (13-4, 2-3) is heading north to face off against Washington State (14-3, 3-3) and No. 4 Washington (15-1, 5-1) this weekend after coming back from a brutal 3-0 sweep by the UCLA Bruins.

“I thought we could have won the UCLA game with a couple breaks,” coach Mick Haley said. “The players fought really hard, and they didn’t win by hammering us.”

The team studied its mistakes on tape against UCLA, leaving Haley with high hopes of what he will see in Washington this weekend.

“I have pretty high expectations about this weekend,” Haley said. “Practice went really well, and they played really hard. We have to go to [Pullman, Wash.] and play extremely hard because we need a win after getting beat last week.”

Winning on the road has proven to be a harder task this year than before, not just for USC, but for most of the teams in the conference. Haley attributed this to the fact that everyone has upped their game this year.

“Each team in the conference is extremely good this year,” he said. “It’s really increased competition on everyone to play better.”

Washington State is coming to the match against the Women of Troy after a four-set loss to then-No. 7 Stanford and a sweep from No. 14 California. The Cougars are hitting .262 together as a team, while leading the Pac-10 in digs (16.21 digs per set) and taking second place in kills per set (14.35).

In the history of play between the Cougars and the Women of Troy, USC comes out on top, leading an all-time series with a 36-11 margin, and winning the last eight consecutive matches against WSU.

USC’s travel schedule this weekend may also have an impact on their energy. Taking two flights to Washington — as well as bouncing between Seattle, Spokane, Wash. and Pullman with bus rides — the travel will be enough to wear them out.

“We just have to approach them one match at a time,” Haley said. “We have to get the first one and then go after the second one with absolute intensity to get the chance to take out the No. 4 team in their hometown.”

The University of Washington has been playing well this season, but is coming to this weekend’s match with a sweep against California, followed by an unexpected five-set loss to then-No. 7 Stanford, their first loss of the season. The Huskies are hitting .325 together as a team, have the lead in the opponent hitting percentage (.126), and are second in kills (14.35 kps) and serving aces (1.86 saps).

USC has not won a game in Seattle since 2004.

“It’s all up in the air,” he said. “We can’t get too down after a loss, especially since we know we have games like the five set win against Cal in us. We lost to Stanford on our home floor and it was not very much fun, but I have a feeling that when we play hard this weekend, we can show Washington just how that feels.”

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