The USC women’s volleyball team saw its remarkable season-opening winning streak come to an abrupt end Friday, as Pac-12 rival Oregon recorded a 3-0 victory at the Galen Center to hand the Women of Troy their first loss of the season.
The No. 2 Women of Troy, who entered the match having won their first 13 matched and swept nine of them, couldn’t muster enough strength to overcome the No. 8 Ducks, who took the match 25-19, 25-15, 25-23 and extended their own season-opening winning streak to 11. The loss marked the first time USC fell to Oregon at home since 1990.
Senior opposite hitter Katie Fuller, one of the team’s most steady contributors thus far, led the Women of Troy with nine kills at a hitting percentage of .318. Freshman outside hitter Samantha Bricio recorded seven kills to back up Fuller.
The Women of Troy faced the Ducks just two nights after a resounding 3-1 victory over No. 1 UCLA Wednesday night, but struggled to maintain consistency throughout the match.
Oregon began the match with a strong attack and never looked back, holding the lead the entire way to capture the first set 25-19. The Women of Troy tied the score at four different points throughout the set, but were unable to penetrate the Oregon defense.
The Ducks posted an impressive .486 hitting percentage in the first frame, logging 19 kills on 35 swings. Meanwhile, the Women of Troy, for whom attacking has been a point of concern for USC coach Mick Haley, hit at a .235 clip, but could not generate any momentum as Oregon went up 24-17. A kill by Bricio failed to start a rally, as senior Katherine Fischer knocked down her sixth kill of the set to give the Ducks the win. More importantly, the Ducks recorded two errors in the set, a statistic that has plagued Haley’s team as well.
Before the TCU Molten Invitational on Sept. 14 and 15, Haley was adamant about consistent offensive improvement, saying, “We need to work on individual improvement so that we have options in our rotation.”
The second set, however, saw even more dominance by Oregon, as they registered 16 kills and compiled a steady .414 hitting percentage. The Women of Troy struggled to develop offense, hitting at a clip of just .036. The Ducks maintained a strong push, overcoming an early 4-3 deficit to take a 13-7 lead. The Women of Troy again failed to rally, and Oregon closed out a 10-point victory to take the middle frame.
In an attempt to salvage the match, the Women of Troy put forth their best effort in the third set, but once again came up short. The set was by far the most competitive of the match, as the teams exchanged leads six times and registered 14 ties throughout the frame. A kill by junior outside hitter Sara Shaw gave USC a 9-7 lead, but Oregon came back to take a 14-13 lead on a kill by senior Alaina Bergsma. The Ducks overcame eight errors to take the set 25-23, handing the Women of Troy their first sweep of the season.
Statistically, the Women of Troy were done in by their offensive woes, as only two other players (junior middle blocker Alexis Olgard and Shaw) recorded five kills. By contrast, Oregon received double-digit kills from three players and hit at a clip of .357, while the Women of Troy attacked at a rate of .189.
Haley insists the loss won’t mean much to the team in the long run.
“We can’t afford to lose our confidence if we lose a match or two,” Haley said. “We can’t think so much about wins or losses, but instead about improvement. We need to stay hydrated, practice and focus on winning each rotation.”
The Women of Troy will head north next weekend for two Pac-12 matches, taking on Washington on Friday night before a matchup against Washington State on Sunday night.