The No. 19 USC women’s volleyball team (15-6, 7-3 Pac-12) will travel to the Pacific Northwest to kick off the back half of its Pac-12 schedule. Head coach Mick Haley’s squad will face No. 14 Washington (16-5, 6-4 Pac-12) and Washington State (13-9, 2-8 Pac-12) this weekend.
It’s the third consecutive week the Women of Troy have held the No. 19 spot in the AVCA poll.
“When you play on the road in the [Pac-12], it’s very difficult to get wins,” Haley said. “So we need to steal some wins on somebody else’s court.”
The Pac-12 is one of the toughest conferences in the nation for women’s volleyball, with half of its teams currently ranked in the top 25. The Women of Troy own a 6-3 record on the road, two of the losses coming from conference games. USC is 6-1 at home on the season.
On the team’s road matches this past weekend, USC was swept by Colorado but came back with a five-set decision against Utah despite missing offensive powerhouse sophomore outside hitter Khalia Lanier.
In Lanier’s absence, senior opposite hitters Brittany Abercrombie and Niki Withers spearheaded the Trojan offense. Together, they combined for a total of 56 kills through the weekend, each putting up 28 kills. Junior outside hitter Alyse Ford also chipped in nine kills in the win against the Utes.
Last time the Huskies and Trojans met, USC pulled off an upset with a straight sweep (25-20, 25-21, 28-26) over then-sixth ranked Washington at the Galen Center. On the road, the Women of Troy have not fared as well against the Huskies. They are 1-9 in their last 10 visits to Seattle; however, USC holds the advantage over Washington State in Pullman, boasting a 7-3 record in the same span.
To prepare for the difficulty of road matches, Haley is focused on getting his team comfortable and focused. Stealing road wins for the Women of Troy will be vital if they want to remain within the top three of the conference. Right now, they find themselves a spot above the Huskies, so a win against them on Friday would be key.
To beat Washington, the Women of Troy will have to limit senior outside hitter Carly DeHoog. She is Washington’s offensive go-to with 227 kills on the season, averaging 2.95 kills a set. Last time she faced USC, she put up 15 kills. The key to the Trojans’ victory was holding everyone else in the Huskies’ offense to seven or fewer kills.
With a day break after their match in Seattle, the Women of Troy will square off against the Cougars. USC will face another high-powered pin attacker in Taylor Mims. The junior outside hitter has 321 kills on the season, averaging 3.87 kills per set. To say Washington State leans on her would be an understatement. Mims has 158 more kills this season than McKenna Woodford, another junior outside hitter. To put her numbers in perspective, Lanier has 290 kills on the season, just 34 more kills than Abercrombie.
But before setting a gameplan for the Washington schools, Haley said the Women of Troy have been focused on themselves and working with new players in their lineup.
“We’re really spending a lot of time on ourselves, quite honestly — we’ve got to basically be comfortable with being uncomfortable,” Haley said. “We’ve got some new people that we’ve got to get in a comfortable situation. We’re just trying to get a little bit better in every position.”