Women’s volleyball splits in Bay Area

After spending a few days up north, the No. 7 Women of Troy can return to practice knowing they have a lot to be proud of — but also a lot of work ahead of them before postseason play begins in just a few weeks.

Since Stanford handed the Women of Troy their only home loss this season, USC was looking for redemption this weekend up in Palo Alto. Unfortunately for USC, the end result was the same, as the No. 3 Cardinal (20-2, 11-2) swept the Women of Troy (20-4, 9-4) in three sets, 25-19. 25-21, 25-19.

“They were much more alert than we were,” said USC coach Mick Haley.

A number of Stanford players had impressive performances on Sunday, including outside hitter Alix Klineman, who recorded 15 kills. Outside hitter Hayley Spelman added another 11 kills for Stanford.

Despite these impressive numbers, when examining the reasons for the loss, Haley refrained from looking at Stanford’s performance and rather turned to what his team did wrong.

“We didn’t do well on our transition game at all and we’re very disappointed in that. We have to look at the net blocking to start with and go from there. This was the first time we’ve gotten out dug in a long time,” Haley said.

Haley also noted the struggles of several players in the match, including his left side hitters, who did not score nearly as many points as they typically do.

“We had some very bad performances from some of the people we count on and our people have to understand how to prepare for each match as if it’s a new match,” said Haley.

Sophomore opposite hitter Katie Fuller led the Women of Troy with nine kills.

After Sunday’s loss, USC is once again reminded of how difficult it is to play on the road in the Pac-10. Three of USC’s four losses have come away from the Galen Center, and the Women of Troy will play on the road in two of the final three weekends of the regular season.

“It’s just playing on the road again, and we were not able to get comfortable, even after we played so well Friday night at Cal,” Haley said.

Friday’s match against California was a completely different story, as the Women of Troy knocked off the No. 2 Golden Bears in four sets, 25-21, 20-25, 25-20, 25-18.

This was the second time USC beat California this season, an accomplishment no other team can come even close to claiming. Not only has no other program beaten the Golden Bears twice this season, no team besides USC has beaten them at all.

“We match up real well against them, and that’s one of the reasons we play well against them,” Haley said.

A number of players stood out in Friday’s match, including freshman outside hitter Falyn Fonoimoana, who ended up with 20 kills and a career-high 13 digs. She was just one of several players Haley was eager to praise after USC’s impressive upset victory.

“Falyn was outstanding. Alex [Jupiter] was good. Kendall [Bateman] was good. Natalie [Hagglund] was good,” Haley said.

Not only did Bateman record 58 assists, but the setter also had three kills, which ties a career best. Jupiter put up 17 kills, 11 digs and five blocks in the match.

Haley says his young team is taking this weekend’s matches, especially the loss against Stanford, as a learning opportunity as the team moves into the final weeks of the regular season.

“It’s just another step for us. We have to be able to learn to do this back-to-back with a day in between like the Final Four,” Haley said.

The Women of Troy remain in third place in the Pac-10 standings with a conference record of 9-4. Sunday’s loss broke USC’s six-match winning streak.