Volleyball splits Hawaii series

USC women's volleyball players celebrate together during a game.
USC traveled on the road to face Hawaii in a weekend series Friday and Saturday. The Trojans fell in four sets Friday, but were able to secure a victory on Saturday to even the series coming home. (Simon Park | Daily Trojan)

Women’s volleyball split their matchups on the road against Hawaii this weekend in the Stan Sheriff Center. 

Although the Trojans fell short to the Rainbow Warriors in four sets in the first matchup (25-17, 11-25, 25-21, 25-20), USC bounced back the following night with a four- set victory (21-25, 25-16, 25-22, 25-23), ending the weekend series tied.

After finishing off the Bluegrass Battle tournament and taking tough losses from No. 3 Kentucky and Creighton in the previous weekend, the Trojans regrouped and figured out a game plan for Hawaii.

 “Hawaii is a very different team than the Kentucky team,” said head coach Brad Keller in a phone interview with the Daily Trojan. “Kentucky was more physical [with] bigger players that are just jumping and hitting the ball. Hawaii just plays unbelievable defense. [They have] a gritty mentality, and nothing hits the floor … So, a lot of our efforts were based on understanding that, and that we weren’t going to land first-ball kills.” 

This season, the Trojans carry a veteran roster with only four freshmen Tyrah Ariail, Elle Glock, Katelyn Smith, Mia Tuaniga and the rest of the team made up of upperclassmen and graduate students. Although their roster shows plenty of experience on the court, Keller emphasized finding cohesiveness as a team.

“I think we are still in the process of learning about our team and about our team dynamics,” he said. “We’re a veteran group; we have a lot of older players on the team, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we’ve been playing together or we understand one another. ” 

In the first game against Hawaii, USC played a solid game statistically. Graduate student outside hitter Brooke Botkin led all the attackers with a total of 17 kills, hitting .217 for the match. Junior outside hitter Kalen Owes followed with 10 kills and a hitting percentage of .214. Despite these offensive efforts, the team was unable to close out the first match. 

“I would say the reason why we lost the first match is, number one: Hawaii played very well. Number two: we weren’t prepared on defense before the ball was actually hit,” Keller said. “So we weren’t getting great touches on the defensive end …  and our transition swings weren’t [as good]. Those transition swings are big swing opportunities, but we were kind of just shooting the ball over back into play.”

However, the Trojans bounced back the following night. The team totaled a hitting percentage of .234. After a shaky start to the match in the first set, the Trojans shocked the Stan Sheriff Center as they took the final three sets, ending the match with 3-1. 

USC played an evenly balanced offensive and defensive game in the second meeting with Hawaii. Botkin and junior opposite hitter Emilia Weske both finished the match with 16 kills. Graduate student middle blocker Candice Denny totaled seven blocks and graduate student outside hitter Shannon Scully reached a season-high of 22 digs.

Now, the Trojans inch closer to conference play as they prepare to take on their final preseason matchup against the University of San Diego on Sept. 17 at Galen Center.