No. 25 USC women’s volleyball defeated Arizona 3-1 Saturday evening at Galen Center in its second conference match this season. The Trojans bounced back after Wednesday’s emotional five-set loss to rival UCLA to bring their conference record to 1-1.
USC seemed like two different teams at times, looking strong in the first and third set but falling off dramatically in the second. The Trojans hit .000 in the second set, their worst single-set hitting percentage all season.
The third set was tightly contested. The score was tied 10 times, and there were six lead changes in the third set alone, while no other set had more than one lead change. USC was aided by an Arizona service error and two service aces by senior libero Jenna Adams in the final 5 points of the match.
The Trojans looked sluggish as they began the fourth set. Arizona jumped out to a 6-2 lead after three consecutive errors by USC.
After this early deficit, second-year head coach Brent Crouch called a timeout to regroup.
“In the fourth, it was going the same way as it was in the second,” Crouch said. “I really challenged the team in a way that I haven’t challenged them yet this year during a timeout at 6-2, and they responded.”
That timeout sparked an 8-1 run for the Trojans, putting them in position to take the fourth set.
“I think [the timeout] was necessary and needed,” senior middle blocker Jasmine Gross said. “We know we are a great team, but there are times where we need a little bit of a push, and I think [Crouch] did a great job pushing us right when we needed it.”
Although USC hit a modest .213 in the match, freshman outside hitter Emilia Weske came up big for the Trojans with eight kills and a .438 hitting percentage. The freshman from Potsdam, Germany, continues to solidify her role as an outside hitter for this team.
Gross was also a key contributor, recording eight kills and a team-high five blocking assists. Gross said Arizona’s fast-paced offense allowed her to have more blocking success than she had against a slower UCLA offense. The Trojans recorded a total of 10 blocks on the game.
USC’s season began with lofty expectations. The Trojans will have to turn things around fast if they still want to compete at a top-5 level.
“It’s time to go on a run,” Crouch said. “We can’t be this up-and-down team that we’ve been where we play some sets and look like a Final Four team, then we play a set and look like [we are] No. 200 in the country.”
Starting out the match strong and faltering somewhere in the middle is quickly becoming a trend for this year’s team. Last week versus UCLA, the Trojans won the first set 25-12 but dropped the second and third, only to lose in the fifth.
“We come out pretty strong then other teams start coming back harder, and we aren’t ready for it,” Gross said. “We just have to keep pushing urgency for every single set.”
Crouch said his team did not leave everything on the court against Arizona.
“We had lots of swings to get kills, and they were like 60% swings, we weren’t taking rips,” Crouch said. “We won the first set, and we took the foot off the gas. You have to have the pedal to the metal or you aren’t going to win.”
USC still awaits the return of senior opposite hitter Emily Baptista, who had 369 kills in 33 games last season, the third highest total for USC.
The Trojans will face No. 8 Washington 8 p.m. Friday at Galen Center as Pac-12 play continues.