Volleyball aims to repeat as tournament champion

Senior outside hitter Khalia Lanier will miss this weekend with an injury, a tough loss for the Trojans. 
(Tal Volk | Daily Trojan)

Coming off a disappointing 1-3 loss at No. 3 Texas, No. 15 women’s volleyball is seeking redemption in this weekend’s UNI tournament where they will face No. 12 Kentucky, No. 23 Creighton and Northern Iowa.

Last season, the Women of Troy hosted the tournament and won all three of their games. This time on the road, head coach Brent Crouch hopes to win again. Crouch said the Trojans are one of the teams to beat entering this year’s tournament following its successful run last season.

“All those teams are looking to crush us, the tournament itself is really special, but they’re all going to be ganging up on us,” Crouch said.

Although the Trojans are highly ranked coming into the tournament, they will be short-handed.

Senior outside hitter Khalia Lanier is not able to play this weekend’s tournament due to injury, and the team is sure to feel her absence. Lanier currently leads the Trojans with 36 points on the season. 

“We [still] have some injuries,” Crouch said. “The goal is just to get a little better every weekend and have some different lineups out there again. That will be great because we’ll give [players] some experience who haven’t played that much, [including freshmen].”

Although the team has been plagued by injury, Crouch expressed confidence in the Trojans’ ability. The tournament roster will feature new rotations and fresh faces including freshman outside hitter Kalen Owes.

The Trojans captured their last meeting against No. 12 Kentucky 3-1, moving to an all-time record of 5-1 against the Wildcats. 

With a career record of over 1,000 kills, senior outside hitter Leah Edmond of Kentucky will be difficult to contain. Edmond, the 2018 SEC Player of the Year, ranked 13th in the nation with 4.57 kills per set last season and is Kentucky’s all-time leader in kills and attempts in the 25-point scoring era. 

“[Edmond] will be someone that we will target,” Crouch said. “We want to make life really hard for her and make her receive every single serve that she’s out there. That’s a hard load, to both pass and hit.”

Crouch also explained how it is necessary to be able to be effective at trapping — a method in which two blockers defend a shot. 

The Women of Troy will be in Northern Iowa’s territory this year and are hoping to win another game against them to improve their record to 7-1.

Crouch said it will be a challenge to hand the Panthers a loss at home but will encourage the girls to play their best and continue with the “positive vibes.”

USC’s third matchup this weekend is Saturday against No. 23 Creighton. The Trojans won the two teams’ previous matchup in five sets last season.

Crouch said doing well in all the matches and “allowing less room for error,” is key to winning this weekend, as the Trojans look to take the tournament for the second year in a row. 

The Trojans’ tournament run will begin 3 p.m. Friday against Kentucky. USC will then go on to face Northern Iowa and Creighton Saturday.