Volleyball drops two of three in Iowa

Junior outside hitter Brooke Botkin had big shoes to fill with Khalia Lanier out due to injury, but Botkin stepped up Friday with 14 kills. (Daily Trojan file photo)

After splitting their first road trip 1-1, No. 15 USC women’s volleyball lost two out of three matches this weekend at the University of Northern Iowa tournament. The Women of Troy felt the absence of All-American senior outside hitter Khalia Lanier and senior opposite Emily Baptista.

The Trojans fell to No. 12 Kentucky in their first match of the weekend. Kentucky was 2-2 entering the match after its loss to Creighton earlier that day.

Lacking the power of Lanier, USC failed to efficiently score off kills. 

Kentucky had 63 kills during the game compared to just 40 for the Trojans. Junior outside hitter Brooke Botkin led the Trojans offensively with 14 kills.

The Trojans opened the first set by dropping 4 straight points. Kentucky was able to get the Trojans out of sync and pulled away after USC briefly held a 13-12 lead. The Wildcats wrapped up the first set with a 25-18 score. 

The second set of the match saw head coach Brent Crouch use all three of his challenges and win two of them. While the referees were reviewing the calls, both the Kentucky and USC benches competed in a dance off. 

The set was closely contested, but Kentucky won 25-22 and took a 2-0 lead.

Down 24-21 in the third set, USC had its back up against the wall and faced a potential sweep. Sparked by a cross court kill by Botkin and helped by a service ace, USC came back, stole the set and extended the game. 

But that would be the only spark the injury-riddled team could muster as Kentucky closed the match in a dominant fourth set. The Wildcats jumped out to a 12-7 lead and never looked back. 

The Trojans constantly played out of system, as they were unable to pass efficiently. Kentucky seemed to target freshman outside hitter Kalen Owes, as she received the ball over 40 times in the game. 

In the second matchup of the tournament, USC defeated Northern Iowa in four sets. Owes put up an impressive 15 kills during the match and lead the team with 20 points scored. Sophomore setter Raquel Lázaro posted the Trojans’ first triple-double in the 25-point scoring era. Lázaro had 11 blocks, 16 digs and 36 sets. 

The two teams were tied 13 times during the match. USC came back from as many as 6 points down several times, using multiple long runs to help steal the match. 

USC made 21.5 blocks against UNI — the team’s highest total since 2014 — improving its all-time record against Northern Iowa to 7-1. 

To finish off the weekend, USC lost to No. 23 Creighton for the first time in seven contests between the two schools. 

Though no set was decided by more than 5 points, the Trojans were only able to win one frame. 

Botkin secured her second double-double of the year with 12 kills and 11 digs. Freshman outside hitter Emilia Weske also had an impressive day against Creighton with 15 kills, seven digs, four blocks and an ace. Lázaro totaled 47 assists in the weekend’s last match. 

Although USC fought hard, it was not able to come back from a deficit of 8 points in the last set. The Trojans trimmed the lead to 23-20, but it proved to be too little, too late. 

USC’s weekend moved it to 2-3 on the season. The Trojans have faced three ranked opponents early on in the season, but have come up empty handed in all those matches. 

Next, the Trojans return home to the Galen Center for their first home games of the season as Yale, Howard and Villanova come to town for the Trojan Invitational.