USC looks to snap losing streak, faces Cal Friday

The Trojans are scheduled to compete in two games over the weekend in Berkeley, Calif. (Beth Mosch | Daily Trojan)

USC women’s volleyball lost another five set heartbreaker Sunday in Salt Lake City. The Utes, who are ranked first in conference play and seventh nationally, handed the Trojans their fourth straight defeat. The team has been struggling to close out games as three of its past four matches have gone to five sets. 

On Sunday, the Trojans lost by scores of 24-26, 25-19, 25-18, 24-26 and 15-13. USC will now look to break its losing streak Friday when they face the Cal Golden Bears at Haas Pavilion in Berkeley.

The Golden Bears have had a rough start to their season as well, having lost seven of their first eight games. Their only win came against Stanford, a team that USC has yet to play due to coronavirus cancellations. 

Katrina Pantovic, a freshman outside hitter for the Golden Bears, leads the team in kills. For the Trojans, senior outside hitter Brooke Botkin and sophomore outside hitter Emilia Weske are looking to continue their impressive seasons. In their last match against Utah, Botkin had 21 kills, 12 digs and 4 blocks to complete her fifth straight double-double. Weske had 13 kills and 4 blocks. 

USC head coach Brad Keller hopes the team can improve its play as the season goes on.

“Every single weekend we have together we’re learning a lot about one another — how to communicate, how to create relationships, and all of those small little things that are so vital that we haven’t been able to do because of COVID,” Keller said. “To catch up with communication and one-on-ones and to actually be around each other is super helpful for us, especially on the road because there’s a lot of dead pockets of time.” 

For this weekend’s games against Cal, Keller hopes the team improves its decision making in high-pressure situations.

“It’s going to come down to the details. This team knows that — we’re not great on details,” Keller said. “We’ve got to get better at passing the ball on first touch and second touch. We have to get better at late matches and how to handle those stressful situations. The more that we’re in those scenarios, the better off we are going to be.” 

Coming off a rough patch, Keller explained why the Trojans were so short-handed against the Utes. In USC’s first match against Utah, Keller and company were without eight of their players due to disciplinary actions and injuries. Because of this, Keller made zero substitutions for the entire match. 

“Obviously the first night was a different lineup. We had a violation of team standards,” Keller said. “Here at USC, you get what you tolerate, and we’re just not going to tolerate anything but the very best.”

Despite missing key players, Keller was impressed with the performance of the players who contributed on short notice. 

“Both matches I thought we competed,” Keller said. “For a lineup they had to learn all these new things within two days … they competed. They were given kind of an unfair hand and they dealt with it […] I thought there were a lot of positives to what they did.”

USC will face Cal Friday at 7 p.m., and Saturday at 3 p.m.