Volleyball gets knocked out in the second round of NCAA Tournament
After sweeping Stephen F. Austin Friday, the USC women’s volleyball team was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in the second round by No. 1 Baylor Saturday.
USC rolled against the Lumberjacks, who entered with a record of 31-1 — but many of those wins came against weaker competition. USC proved to be the far superior team right out the gate, jumping ahead and never trailing in the match.
Junior outside hitter Brooke Botkin supplemented a Trojan offense that has relied heavily on senior outside hitter Khalia Lanier for much of the season. Botkin returned from a month-long back injury in the regular-season finale and has provided a boost for the team ever since.
She posted 17 kills to lead the team against SFA.
“I think that we worked really hard this week to get our fast offense back,” Botkin said after the win. “We kind of slowed it down due to some injuries, and now we are going fast again, and that’s the kind of offense we want to run.”
The Trojans came up short against the Bears, 3-0, but two of the three matches were decided by 3 points or fewer. Throughout, though, Baylor proved to be the stronger and more consistent team.
Baylor entered the match with a 26-1 record — its only loss to No. 4-overall Texas, whom they later beat — compared to USC’s 18-13.
That gap was apparent all night, as Baylor outhit USC .323 to .271 and added 12 blocks, while USC had seven.
Poor serving in the first set put USC in a hole early on. Lanier had nine kills in the first set alone, and as a team, USC hit a remarkable .469 in the frame. USC even held a five-point lead at 17-12, but five service reception errors and three service errors allowed the Bears to climb back into the match.
USC wanted to slow down the top-ranked Baylor offensive attack and junior outside hitter Yossiana Pressley, an All-American honorable mention last year. She tallied 12 kills but hit a meager .171.
Still, in the second and third sets, Baylor improved its defense and was able to end the Trojans’ season.
This match finished Lanier’s historic career as a Trojan. Against Stephen F. Austin, Lanier picked up her 2,000th career kill, becoming just the fifth player in Pac-12 history to achieve 2,000 kills and 1,000 digs in a career.
At the end of the season, USC’s final record stands at 18-14. From the start of the year until the loss to Baylor, the team could not muster much momentum or find any consistency. The Trojans were plagued by injuries all year long, a large reason the team’s record fell significantly from a 22-11 2018 season.