USC loses in four sets to UCLA

Graduate student middle blocker Candice Denny attempts to block the ball from reaching over the net.
Graduate student middle blocker Candice Denny attempts to block the ball from reaching over the net. (Amanda Chou | Daily Trojan)

USC lost in four sets in its first Pac-12 matchup of the season against UCLA at Pauley Pavillion Wednesday.

The Trojans came into the first set with a shaky start. Too many errors at the net and from the service line allowed the Bruins to build a quick lead. At an 8-point deficit, 15-7, USC began to climb back into the match with pivotal swings from junior opposite hitter Emilia Weske. The Trojans closed the lead to 4 points before UCLA took the opening set.

The Trojans played a cleaner game in the second set with less unforced errors and more open transition swings. However, the Bruins played off the energy from both the previous set and the crowd of more than 6,000 in Pauley Pavilion. UCLA took the second set, 25-20.

The Trojans got back in the match as points went back-and-forth between the two schools. USC gained a lead over the Bruins in the third set, with big service aces from graduate student middle blocker Candice Denny. The Trojans successfully held off the home team after a few close calls, ending the third set in USC’s favor, 25-21.

Entering the fourth set, UCLA intensified its defensive presence which caused problems for the Trojans at the net. USC began to fall behind after struggling to hit over the Bruins’ block. 

UCLA picked up a 7-point run in the fourth and final set, edging it closer to its first conference victory. The Bruins closed out the set despite the Trojans battling through, with a final score of 25-14.

“I think this UCLA team is one of the most physical teams in the country,”  head coach Brad Keller said. “I thought they played well tonight, they did a really nice job of serving and hitting out-of-system and digging balls.”

USC experienced difficulty on offense as its hitting percentages were as accurate as usual. With big hitters Denny and senior Brooklyn Schirmer hitting below .100, the Trojans had trouble getting their offense up and running. 

The offensive trouble, in combination with the unforced errors throughout the match, caused a loss of too many points.

“I think we just made too many errors and waited too long to get going,” Keller said. “We need to have players start to step up and pull their weight. We can’t have multiple pins and multiple middles hitting under .100, and we need to start hitting smarter shots.”

The Trojans now stand with an overall record of 4-6 and will have the chance to bounce back this weekend. USC will travel up north for its matchup against UC Berkeley.

“We have [Thursday] off, and we’ll get back at it on Friday and it’s all about Cal,” Keller said. “We’ll practice on Friday and Saturday … play them on Sunday and get back to where we need to be.”

The Trojans will play the Golden Bears Sunday at Haas Pavilion at 2 p.m.