Women’s volleyball splits games on road trip in Oregon

Graduate student outside hitter Brooke Botkin jumps up to strike the ball as her teammates look on.
Graduate student outside hitter Brooke Botkin leads the Trojans in points with 392.5 and has played in 25 games this season. (Bonnie Tin Sum Lee | Daily Trojan)

This past weekend, USC traveled north for its final two away matches of the season against Oregon and Oregon State. The Trojans finished their road trip Sunday with a split record of 1-1 after defeating Oregon State, bringing their overall record to 11-14 and conference record to 7-9 on the season.

The Trojans took on the Ducks in the Matthew Knight Arena in their second meeting of the season Friday. Oregon took the first two sets of the match as USC struggled to find its rhythm.

After a few minor changes in the lineup, USC found its groove and was able to take the next two sets of the match. The Trojans looked to pull off a reverse sweep, similar to what the Ducks did in Galen Center in their first meeting, but they fell into a five-point deficit early into the tie-breaking set and were fighting to catch up for the remainder of the set. Oregon claimed the final point, ending the comeback and winning the match 3-2. (25-22, 25-20, 26-28, 21-25, 15-11)

“I thought they came out really strong in the first two sets, and we were still trying to find our way,” Head Coach Brad Keller said. “I think we found our rhythm in the third and fourth set and started playing with a lot of aggression both from the service line and from the transition side of things. In the fifth set, we fell behind pretty early and didn’t match their energy.”

After the defeat, the Trojans were able to bounce back in Sunday’s match against Oregon State. Coming out strong with a big swing from graduate student middle blocker Candice Denny, USC started the match with a high intensity.

The Trojans kept the pressure on the Beavers with graduate student outside hitter Brooke Botkin leading at the net with 14 kills and Denny following with 10 kills. Junior opposite hitter Emilia Weske and outsider hitter Kalen Owes along with graduate student middle blocker Sabrina Smith each totaled 7 kills for the match. With an average hitting percentage of .376 for the match, the Trojans swept Oregon State, ending the match 3-0. (25-13, 25-17, 25-17)

“We left a lot of points and opportunities on the table against Oregon, and then coming in, I just thought that we didn’t do that against Oregon State, which is great,” Keller said. “Our level of execution, point-by-point, play-by-play was at a pretty high level right out of the gates and we just never let up.” 

USC has four games remaining in its regular season and needs to win all of its remaining games to have a shot at qualifying for the playoffs.

“I think we’re running out of rope,” Keller said. “We’re at the end of this journey and we have to win out to have playoff aspirations, and I think that’s a real thing for this team. At the end of the day, it’s been the same story since day one. We have the ability to play at a high level, it’s just how long are we going on those streaks, highs versus lows.”

USC will be back at Galen Center to host Arizona Friday in their second matchup against the Wildcats this season. First serve starts at 8 p.m.