Women’s volleyball battles to wins against Arizona, ASU

Sophomore setter Cindy Marina records a dig against Arizona on Friday night. Photo by Kaan Demiroz | Daily Trojan

The women’s volleyball team earned two victories over the weekend at the Galen Center, defeating Arizona State 3-1 on Friday before edging out Arizona 3-2 in a five-set thriller on Sunday.

USC took charge early against the Sun Devils to kick off the weekend, as the team won the first set 25-20 behind senior opposite hitter Brittany Abercrombie’s five kills. Despite jumping out to a 7-2 lead in the second set, the Trojans could not hold on to the lead as Arizona State stormed back to tie things up with a 25-21 win. Sophomore outside hitter Khalia Lanier, who returned for the Women of Troy after missing the past four games, paced her team with eight kills in the second set.

But the Trojans rushed out to an early lead in the third frame and never looked back, winning 25-19. USC clinched the victory in a tight fourth set that saw nine tied scores and six lead changes. The Women of Troy used a 5-0 run to end the set and the match with a 25-18 victory.

Lanier’s 20 kills spearheaded the Trojan attack against ASU, while Abercrombie and freshman opposite hitter Brooke Botkin contributed a combined 20 kills. Setters senior Reni Meyer-Whalley and sophomore Cindy Marina also combined for 43 assists in setting up attack opportunities. The Trojans were able to limit Arizona State’s Oluoma Okaro, who averaged 4.48 kills per set, to just 11 kills and 12 errors across four sets.

Two days later, USC emerged victorious in a slugfest against the Wildcats. Neither team could assert itself in a tight first set, but Botkin came through for USC, striking for three kills towards the end of the game to lift her team to a 25-20 set win. But Arizona rallied quickly, turning the tables in consecutive sets to put the Women of Troy in a 2-1 hole.

The Wildcats overcame a deficit to take a late lead in the fourth set, but this time, USC fought back with a 5-1 run to tie things up with a 25-22 win. In the final set, the Trojans rode their momentum to a fast start, and despite errors that allowed the Wildcats to draw within two points, the Trojans secured the match with a 15-11 victory in the final set.

Head coach Mick Haley was relieved to come away with a 2-0 weekend but was concerned with his team’s sloppy play.

“It felt like we might’ve gotten the win, but lost the match because [we] didn’t play at the level [we] expected,” Haley said. “At this point of the season in November, you have to understand that you have to fight for everything.”

The Women of Troy relied on a balanced team effort against Arizona: Lanier led the way with 16 kills, while Abercrombie, Botkin and senior opposite hitter Niki Withers each had 11 kills. Senior middle blocker Jordan Dunn helped with eight kills and seven blocks, and Meyer-Whalley and Marina provided 24 and 28 assists, respectively. But the team also committed 24 errors and 14 service errors.

“If this is our down period, then we’ll take it,” Haley said. “We got two wins this weekend — that was the goal. We’re still constantly trying to get better, but sometimes you just have to take the wins. We should be happy with that. We should be proud of that.”

With the two wins, USC now stands at 18-7 on the season, including a 10-4 mark in the Pac-12. This week, the Women of Troy welcome Utah and Colorado to the Galen Center, as the Utes visit on Thursday and the Buffaloes on Saturday.