The No. 15-ranked USC women’s volleyball team traveled to Texas this past weekend, defeating Texas State before falling to No. 4 Texas.
USC dropped a tight first set 28-26 against Texas State Friday. The team battled hard in the beginning, not wanting to give up an all-important first set against an unranked team. Texas State had three match point opportunities before finally securing the game.
“We were over-the-top with the energy,” junior outside hitter Brooke Botkin said. “We just had to bring it back a bit to play our game.”
Botkin finished second on the team with 10 digs and 12 kills in the match.
USC was able to reign in its energy and dominated the middle part of the match. The Trojans won the second set 25-15 and carried that momentum into the third by jumping out to a 12-4 lead, eventually finishing the frame 25-17.
The Trojans didn’t play their best in the third set, posting a hitting percentage of just .156, but the Bobcats couldn’t capitalize. They hit a dismal .026, helping USC secure the 2-1 lead.
Texas State battled in the fourth set and got out to an 18-11 lead, but the Trojans refused to give in and settle for a deciding fifth set. Senior outside hitter Khalia Lanier helped bring the Trojans back into the match with multiple kills to bring USC within three at 20-17. After powerful serves from Botkin propelled the Trojans to a 7-0 run, they eventually won the set 25-23.
Two freshmen started for USC in the matchup with the Bobcats: middle blocker Madison Horin and defensive specialist Keila Barra. Horin tallied seven kills on 14 attempts along with three blocks. Barra provided a boost to the team with her serving, totaling 2 aces, and played solid defense with six digs and no errors. Barra switched to libero for the fourth set.
“We have such a strong freshman class,” Botkin said. “They bring a lot to this team and play an important role for us.”
The box score flipped for the Trojans when they played Texas — after winning the first set, they dropped the next three to lose 3-1.
USC’s hitting percentage dropped every set in the match. In the first, they hit a solid .290, then dropped to .103 in the fourth. The hitting errors also steadily increased for USC as the match went on.
“That game was very eye-opening for us,” Botkin said. “We saw a bunch of things we need to work on like passing and cutting down on the number of errors we make.”
Statistically, the match appeared to be a tight battle. The Longhorns picked up 10 aces to the Trojans’ six, but every other category was nearly split between the two teams, giving Botkin confidence that the team will only improve for the rest of the season.
“We have so much room to grow, and that game showed us what we can do better,” Botkin said. “We can hang with teams like Texas, and we are definitely a top-five team, and we will be at the end of the season.”
To achieve that top-five goal, the Trojans will need to get back in the win column quickly. Defeating No. 12 Kentucky and No. 23 Creighton this week will be crucial to climbing up i the NCAA rankings.
The team looks prepared to pick up two important wins after a promising first weekend of the regular season.
“It felt really good for everything to come together, and we were seeing all of our hard work come to life on the court,” Botkin said.