Volleyball faces pivotal weekend

Senior outside hitter Khalia Lanier will play an instrumental role in helping USC’s offense get back on track. (Sinead Chang | Daily Trojan)

The USC volleyball team has a chance to turn its season around with a pair of matchups against Pac-12 opponents this weekend. 

After a win against Arizona, the Trojans will look to keep their momentum going this weekend against No. 24 Washington State and No. 8 Washington at Galen Center.  

The Huskies enter the matchup with an impressive 10-2 record this season, while the Cougars are 12-2 and will play UCLA before visiting USC. 

Meanwhile, the Trojans have had an up-and-down start to the 2019 season, coming into the weekend at 7-5. 

With each game, the Trojans seem to be improving both offensively and defensively. This weekend will be a big test for them, considering they are unranked in the AVCA coaches poll for the first time since 2017.

The Trojans are still 4-0 at home and will need to keep this win streak alive. Although the rankings are not in USC’s favor, senior libero Jenna Adams views the upcoming games as more of an opportunity than a challenge. 

“The Pac-12 is so competitive, and these are great opportunities to improve our rankings and just continue moving up in the Pac-12,” Adams said. “So I look at these as great opportunities to improve, learn and get better.”

In their last meeting against the Huskies, the Trojans lost 3-1. However, USC still leads the all-time series 41-28. 

Defensively, Adams said that USC has been dedicating a lot of time to scouting its upcoming opponents. This includes watching film, analyzing the various types of plays they run and discussing how to stop these Washington teams. 

As a libero — the defensive specialist of the team — and one of its more polished players, USC will benefit from having Adams back from injury.

USC will rely on AVCA All-Americans senior outside hitter Khalia Lanier and junior outside hitter Brooke Botkin to get the young team back on track.

USC has struggled with offensive rhythm and tempo this season, and it will be critical for the Trojans to improve against Washington State’s strong defense. 

“I think offense is something we work on every single day,” Adams said. “Getting rhythm with the hitters, sometimes it’s a day in, day out [sort of thing]. Some days it’s there, and some days it’s not.”

Playing at Galen Center will provide a big advantage for USC this weekend, and the Trojans will look to feed off the crowd’s energy. 

While it’s been a rocky start to the season, Adams believes the team is trending upward. 

“We’re learning more about our team culture and the team dynamic this year,” she said. “So I think each game we’re improving.” 

There’s no denying this hasn’t been the start that USC expected, but with two underdog wins this weekend, USC can right the ship and return to their usual dominant ways. 

The Trojans will try to do just that starting against Washington at 8 p.m. Friday, before taking on Washington State at noon Sunday.