It’s looking more and more like the Pac-12 volleyball regular season championship will come down to USC’s season finale against No. 1 UCLA on Nov. 25, but until then, the Women of Troy know they need to take care of business against their other conference foes.
After splitting road games this weekend, USC is tied atop the conference standings with the Bruins.
No. 10 Washington and Washington State come into Los Angeles this weekend hoping to take some luster off of the season finale between the crosstown rivals.
The Women of Troy (18-4, 13-2) will start the weekend, hosting the Cougars (12-12, 4-10), who have lost five of their last six matches.
“[Jen Greeny] is new, but she’s really motivated them to compete hard,” USC coach Mick Haley said. “So our players can’t take them lightly in any way shape or form. Washington State will come to play, so if we don’t play our best, then we’ll have our hands full.”
The Cougars are led by outside hitter Meagan Ganzer, who is first in the Pac-12 in kills per set (4.91) and points per set (5.46). Ganzer has 103 more kills than anyone else in the conference.
“She’s their go-to player,” Bateman said. “Stopping her is one of our main concerns, not letting her have a great night against us.”
The senior All-American said the performance of the middle blockers will be key to shutting down Ganzer and the rest of Washington State’s hitters.
Senior Lauren Williams, sophomore Alexis Olgard and freshman Hannah Schraer have been rotating in the two middle blocker spots.
Williams and Schraer will start Friday night against Washington to give Olgard, who is experiencing some swelling in her knee while recovering from offseason surgery, a rest.
“I’ve been working really hard because it took me a while to get back in a rhythm in practice,” Olgard said. “When I finally got back to starting [last weekend] it felt really normal, like it should.”
Olgard, who made her first start of the season last weekend against California, will spell Schraer in the starting lineup again on Saturday night against Washington.
USC swept the Huskies on the road Sept. 16 to jump start a 12-match winning streak that ended when the team lost to Stanford last weekend.
Washington has lost three of its past six matches, but it still stands at the top of several statistical categories in the Pac-12.
The Huskies are first in blocks per set (3.57), opponent hitting percentage (.130) and service aces per set (1.64).
“Washington is a physical team. They’re really strong,” Bateman said. “They put up a big block every time we play them. So [our plan] will be just about being smart and making the right decisions for our hitters.”
Haley said the team is eager to get some revenge against UCLA in the season finale but emphasizes the importance of every game until then.
“We don’t overlook anybody and we don’t try to assume anything,” Haley said. “Every week for the next three weeks, we’ve got two matches that we have to prepare well for.”
The players echoed similar sentiments about the remaining games in conference play.
“It’s going to be a battle until the end,” senior setter Kendall Bateman said. “Any team can be the best any given night so you just have to be ready to play.”