The No. 4 USC women’s volleyball team made the most of playing at home last weekend with back-to-back three-game sweeps of Pac-12 contenders No. 10 Washington and Washington State.
After a tough road trip last week that saw the Women of Troy (20-4, 15-2) face off against No. 3 Stanford and No. 7 California, they took full advantage of playing at the Galen Center against lesser competition.
“[It was a] great weekend for us. Saturday night we had a stunning crowd of over 500 fathers and daughters here,” USC coach Mick Haley said. “Plus we had great match versus Washington with a 3-0 sweep.”
Playing the Huskies (18-6, 10-6) for the second time this season, Haley’s group came away with another three-set (25-15, 25-16, 25-21) victory.
Senior middle hitter Lauren Williams, who had a quiet weekend last week, returned to her All-American form against Washington and Washington State, posting 20 kills along with just two errors — good for a .529 hitting percentage against the Huskies and a perfect 1.000 against the Cougars.
On top of her excellent hitting performance, Williams was able to establish herself on defense, racking up three blocks in each game over the weekend. Haley has wanted to see Williams, long hailed for her dominant offensive output, make more of an impact at the net, and her continued progress in that department is a boon for an already-strong USC defense.
“Williams was absolutely good with six stuff block and a couple of diving saves on the floor,” Haley said. “We were pretty pleased with everything that went on.”
For Washington, Bianca Rowland lead the way with a team-high eight kills, but the Huskies struggled to establish much offense throughout the match. USC held vaunted Washington freshman Krista Vansant to a -.32 hitting percentage as the team’s kills leader couldn’t find her rhythm throughout the match.
The crowd of 2,612 — the second-largest crowd in Galen Center history — witnessed USC’s first season sweep of Washington since the Women of Troy’s 2003 national championship run. With the win, USC also now has topped 20 wins for the 14th time in the last 16 seasons.
On Friday, USC made quick work of Washington State (12-13, 4-11), holding the Cougars to .106 hitting percentage, en route to a three-set sweep.
Williams was perfect on the day with 10 kills and no hitting errors, while fellow senior Alex Jupiter continued her excellent all-around play recorded a team-high eleven kills and four digs on the day.
Sophomore libero Natalie Hagglund keyed a defense that held Pac-12 points leader Meagan Ganzer to just seven kills, while forcing her into 11 hitting mistakes. Hagglund has been an unsung hero for the Women of Troy and her 22 digs only reaffirm her status as one of the Pac-12’s top liberos, as she averages 5.27 digs per contest.
“It’s important to get better on defense, which will help us achieve our goal to go to the Final Four and eventually the national title,” Haley said. “Hagglund has been by far the best libero in the country as she produces every night and gives us such strong on-court leadership.”