The No. 10 USC women’s volleyball team (6-0) recorded three impressive victories last weekend en route to winning the Hawaiian Airlines Wahine Volleyball Classic in Honolulu.
Outside hitter Alex Jupiter, setter Kendall Bateman and middle blocker Lauren Williams, all juniors, led the Women of Troy and were named to the all-tournament team. Jupiter was also named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
USC’s marquee win came Sunday night, when the Women of Troy exacted their revenge on No. 4 Hawai’i, who eliminated them in the NCAA tournament last year.
Alex Jupiter led USC with 22 kills and 16 digs, as USC won in 5 sets by scores of 23-25, 25-22, 25-17, 18-25 and 15-7, respectively.
The Women of Troy took a 4-0 lead early in the first set, but Hawai’i battled back. The Rainbow Wahine used a 6-0 run to take a 17-15 lead and didn’t let up. Down 24-23, USC had a chance to tie it, but freshman outside hitter Falyn Fonoimoana’s spike found the net and the set went to Hawai’i.
After dropping the first set, USC dominated the next two to jump out to a 2-1 lead. Needing to win the set to extend the match, Hawai’i began the fourth frame on a roll, jumping to a 9-3 lead. The Women of Troy tried to mount a comeback, but a block on Jupiter kept USC at bay. Later, junior outside hitter Kanani Danielson nailed an ace in the back left corner to close out the set for Hawai’i and tie the match at two.
In the decisive set, USC found its rhythm early and took a 6-1 lead on a spike by Williams. After a timeout was called by Hawai’i, the Women of Troy used a 7-3 run to close out the match and secure the upset.
“I am extremely pleased,” USC coach Mick Haley said. “We went into Hawaii, played after a five-hour trip, and beat three good teams including one in front of 8,000 people in their own backyard.”
On Friday and Saturday, USC swept New Mexico and Michigan State, respectively.
Williams keyed the 25-19, 25-19, 25-20 victory against New Mexico on Friday night, recording 12 kills, a career-high five assists and five blocks.
The Lobos took a 6-2 lead in the first set, but the Women of Troy used an ace from Jupiter to ignite a run and take an 8-6 lead. With the score 20-18, Jupiter once again took charge and recorded a kill that led to a 5-1 stretch that gave USC the first set. Down 8-5 in the second set, USC capitalized on a bevy of Lobo errors to take a 19-16 lead. Eventually, Jupiter’s block would secure the second set for USC. In the third set, USC jumped out to a 9-3 lead and never looked back as it completed the sweep.
Against Michigan State, Jupiter led the team with 17 kills and six blocks, while Fonoimoana contributed 10 kills to aid the 25-17, 25-23, 25-15 victory. Throughout the first and second sets, USC used a combination of well-placed kills and blocks to take a 2-0 lead. Early in the third frame, the Women of Troy overpowered the Spartans and took a 12-6 lead; after a Michigan State timeout, USC continued its skillful play and recorded its second sweep of the weekend.
At this juncture, Haley seemed pleased with his team’s play.
“We are starting to mature. Our freshman have great potential and our juniors are starting to be responsible,” Haley said. “We had five freshman in the games at various times, and they all did well.”
With a challenging conference schedule on the horizon, the tournament victory is a confidence boost.
“No question the team will be more confident heading forward,” Haley said. “This just reassures what we have been preaching. We have an awfully good team. If we keep practicing and competing hard, we could be really good by the end of November.”