Trojans fit to start season

The women's volleyball team is pictured in a huddle as a coach directs them at the Galen Center.
Women’s volleyball will return to a normal schedule after playing just 15 games against exclusively Pac-12 opponents last season. (Rohan Palla | Daily Trojan)

Women’s volleyball is set to host its annual Trojan Invitational at Galen Center this weekend. This year’s tournament will feature four teams: USC, University of Denver, Campbell University and Cal State University, Northridge. 

Head coach Brad Keller knows better than anybody how important it will be to improve upon last year’s weaknesses.

“I think that we are going to improve in the ball control category from last year,” Keller said. “I’m hoping that we’re going to be a really good, tough, serving team. We have seven new players. We have a lot more depth. We have a lot of players that are healthy.”

Denver will be the Trojans’ first out-of-conference opponent since Dec. 7, 2019, when USC lost to Baylor in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Pioneers finished the 2020-21 season with a 14-3 record, with their only losses coming to Omaha and South Dakota and they won five of their last six games. Fifth year senior Tina Boe will continue to lead a Denver team that won five of its last six games to close out last season. During the 2020 campaign, Boe averaged 1.27 blocks per set, ranking second in the Summit League Conference. 

Following the invitational’s opener against Denver, the second opponent USC will face is Campbell University. The Fighting Camels had a solid 2020 campaign, finishing the season with an 11-5 overall record. Campbell’s first matchup of the season took place Aug. 21 against Liberty, where they won 3-1. 

Graduate senior outside hitter Brooke Botkin is hoping her four seasons of experience will help the team understand the importance of early-season momentum. 

“It’s super important that we continue to win right off the bat so that we can finish strong at the end of [the] season,” Botkin said.

CSUN is the final opponent for USC this weekend. The game will cap off the Trojan Invitational and will feature a volleyball appreciation night for fans. Unlike the Trojans, however, CSUN’s 2020 volleyball season was completely cancelled due to the coronavirus. The Matadors haven’t played an official game since Nov. 21, 2019, a game which capped off a 12-16 season. Senior outside hitter Sevion Waggoner will continue to lead CSUN after posting a team high 335 kills in 2019. Before transferring to CSUN, Waggoner spent her freshman year playing for Rice University.

USC’s first game against Denver will tip off the three-day Trojan Invitational at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 27 at the Galen Center.