Volleyball struggles to find a win in Milwaukee

Junior outside hitter Khalia Lanier has dominated so far this season with a total of 138 kills and 89 digs. (Sinead Chang | Daily Trojan)

The No. 9 Women of Troy had a tough weekend at the Milwaukee Invitational where they took two losses against No. 15 Brigham Young University and host Marquette but ended the tournament  on a strong note with a 3-2 victory over Syracuse.

USC opened up the weekend with a Friday morning match against BYU. The Cougars swept the Trojans, out-hitting them .287 to .242 and collecting nine aces to USC’s two throughout the match. USC fought hard in the first two matches (28-30, 21-25) before falling in the third set 25-14 despite impressive performances from the Women of Troy outside hitters.

Junior outside hitter Khalia Lanier had a powerhouse performance, boasting a double-double with 13 kills and 15 digs. Junior outside hitter Emily Baptista also recorded 13 kills, along with three blocks and two digs. As the third Trojan to collect 13 kills in the match, sophomore outside hitter Brooke Botkin added six digs and one block. Freshman setter Raquel Lázaro pieced together the offense with 35 assists and eight digs.

These shiny numbers weren’t enough to take down a top-ranked team that managed to avoid any errors in the third set. Senior outside hitter Veronica Jones-Perry lead BYU with 26 kills, two blocks and three digs throughout the match, while senior setter Lyndie Haddock-Epich added 34 assists, 11 digs, four kills, three blocks and one ace to seal the win.

The Women of Troy had to move on from the loss quickly, facing tournament host Marquette that same night. After a hard fought battle, the Trojans fell in a five-set loss. They took the first set, but the Golden Eagles responded by winning two in a row. USC forced a fifth set after a 33-31 fourth-set win but ended up losing 11-15.

Lázaro made her mark with 46 assists, 16 digs, six blocks, two aces and one kill. Lanier had another double-double with 17 kills and 11 digs, and Botkin delivered once again with 17 kills, six digs, four blocks and an ace. Junior middle blocker Jasmine Gross showed up with 10 blocks and seven kills. The defense was led by senior libero Victoria Garrick’s 21 digs and two aces.

For the Golden Eagles, Hope Werch recorded 17 kills and 14 digs and junior outside hitter Allie Barber lead with 29 kills. USC led the match in blocks and made less errors, but Marquette’s .286 hitting percentage to the Trojans’ .243 made all the difference. Driven by 71 total assists, their offense was more productive throughout the five sets.

Coming off of two losses, the Women of Troy walked into their last set against Syracuse on Saturday afternoon, and they took a much-deserved five-set victory. They ended the weekend with a win after starting the match down two sets with close scores (22-25, 25-27) and finishing with three dominant wins in a row to claim the match (25-14, 25-14, 15-13).

The Trojans found their sense of urgency on offense, starting with Botkin’s career-high 28 kills, nine digs, two blocks and two aces. She finished with a .400 hitting percentage. Gross and Lanier continued to deliver against the Orange, with seven and 18 kills, respectively. Lázaro showed why she is already a two-time Pac-12 Freshman of the Week winner this season with 53 assists, seven digs, six blocks and two aces. Senior defensive specialist Reni Meyer-Whalley added 10 digs to Garrick’s 14 to complete the win.

On the Orange side of the net, freshman outside hitter Polina Shemanova led the offense with 20 kills and 10 digs. Senior setter Jalissa Trotter had a dominant performance with 35 assists, 11 digs, five kills and three blocks. However these key players weren’t enough to stop the Women of Troy on their determined quest for a victory in the tournament.

USC will head to San Diego this weekend to take on Louisiana and host San Diego in the SDSU/USD Challenge before returning home next week to open Pac-12 play against UCLA on Sept. 19.