Over the weekend, the No. 19 women’s volleyball team surged past Cal in a four-set victory on Friday before losing to No. 3 Stanford in four sets on Sunday, snapping its perfect record at the Galen Center. With the split, USC now moves to 14-5 on the season and 6-2 in Pac-12 play.
On Friday, the Trojans stormed back from an early 11-8 deficit to win the first set 25-21, but they dropped a tightly contested second set 29-27 after Mima Mirkovich of the Golden Bears struck for two kills to tie the match. Despite splitting the first two sets, USC overwhelmed the Bears in the third set 25-15 and closed out with another tight 25-23 fourth-set win. In the third set, the Women of Troy capitalized on 10 Cal errors, and junior outside hitter Alyse Ford was key for the Trojans in the fourth set, as she recorded six kills in crucial possessions to bury the Golden Bears’ momentum for good. The Trojans never trailed in the final two sets.
In the win, the Trojans’ offense was powered by senior opposite hitter Brittany Abercrombie, who recorded a team-high 16 kills with a .308 hitting percentage. Sophomore outside hitter Khalia Lanier also chipped in with 15 kills, while senior opposite hitter Niki Withers recorded 13 and Ford racked up 12. Senior setter Reni
Meyer-Whalley and sophomore setter Cindy Marina recorded 27 and 25 assists, respectively, and junior libero Victoria Garrick recorded 22 digs.
After a break on Saturday, USC returned on Sunday to take on third-ranked juggernaut Stanford. The Cardinal jumped out early in the first set and took a commanding 25-18 win behind a stable offense spearheaded by Kathyrn Plummer and Audriana Fitzmorris. In the second set, the Trojans used a 7-1 run to take the early lead before the two teams seesawed back and forth for the lead. With the set tied at 23 apiece, a Stanford error followed by a Meyer-Whalley service ace sealed a hard-fought second-set win for the Trojans.
Despite an early Trojan lead at 12-11, the Cardinal used a 10-2 run to distance themselves from the Trojans and take the third set 25-17. The Trojans grabbed a 12-10 lead again in a tightly contested fourth set, but the Cardinal used a 8-1 run to take the lead back at 18-13. Head coach Mick Haley responded by taking a timeout, and the Trojans answered with a 7-0 run of their own to keep the game alive.
“[Haley] just told us to make sure we’re attacking the ball,” Withers said. “Basically, he was telling us to go for it: Stay focused, and everything will come to you.”
With a 20-18 Trojan lead, the two teams traded point-for-point until Plummer and Fitzmorris recorded kills to tie the game. An error and a service ace from Meghan McClure iced the game for a Stanford victory.
Lanier led USC with 14 kills on Sunday, though the Cardinal held her to a .068 percentage while limiting 13 of her 14 kills to the opening two sets. Like Friday’s match, Abercrombie (12 kills, .370 percentage), Withers (11 kills, .556 percentage) and Ford (10 kills, .136 percentage) also helped spearhead the Trojan attack.
Meyer-Whalley and Marina recorded 22 and 18 assists, respectively, while Garrick led the team again with 15 digs.
“Sometimes the scores don’t show how close the match was,” Haley said. “I told [the team]: We’re all upset that we didn’t win, but we’re getting there. Every week we’re getting a little bit better. We can do a lot better than this.”
After the hard-fought loss, USC will now focus its attention on next weekend, when the team travels to Colorado and Utah.
“We get two practices on Tuesday and Wednesday before we fly to Boulder,” Haley said. “We really do need to come to those practices ready to go. I will be very surprised if anybody is hanging their head when they come out of the locker room. That was the instruction: ‘We’re not feeling sorry for ourselves. Next time we get in this situation, we’ve been there once, [and] we should be a lot better.’”
USC will play Colorado at 7 p.m. on Friday and Utah at noon on Sunday.