Trojans drop two of three in 2022 Bluejay Invitational

USC volleyball player Emilia Weske competes in the Cardinal and Gold Classic.
Senior outside Skylar Fields landed 22 kills in the Trojans’ 3-1 victory against Northen Iowa. (Chris Bibona | Daily Trojan)

Women’s volleyball started the season just about as strong as anyone could ask for, but a pair of intense matches on the road caused the team’s recent momentum to fizzle out.

After their fourth consecutive win of the season against the University of Northern Iowa Friday morning, the Trojans were humbled with losses to No. 17 Creighton University Friday night and No. 16 University of Kentucky Saturday.

“I definitely didn’t think it was a mismatch,” head coach Brad Keller said. “We have an entirely new team that’s learning about ourselves, the game, the touch of the ball and everything else. And so I just don’t think we had enough hours in the gym to sustain against them.”

The tournament began with a historic performance from senior opposite hitter Skylar Fields, who landed 22 kills against Northern Iowa in a 3-1 winning effort for the Trojans. It was the second most kills in a match for Fields in her career, second only to a 2021 performance against University of Kansas where the then junior at University of Texas, Austin swung for 26 kills in a five-set victory.

Senior opposite hitter Emilia Weske also showed out against the Panthers, racking up a team-high 13 digs and 4 aces while  scoring 10 kills for USC. The Trojans’ graduate middle blocker Kalyah Williams also added 13 kills to the scoring barrage.

Later that night, the Trojans were tasked with playing tournament host Creighton, the No. 17 ranked team in the nation by the American Volleyball Coach Association. It was USC’s first matchup versus a ranked opponent this season, and statistically, the program’s worst game offensively. A season high in errors (26) and season low in hitting percentage (.189) dragged down a previously undefeated Trojan team for a 1-3 loss to the Bluejays.

Creighton senior outside hitter Keeley Davis was the offensive standout of the game, leading the field with 16 kills and 3 aces against USC.

Coach Brad Keller’s squad went face-to-face with No. 16 Kentucky on Saturday night, and not only were the Trojans swept 0-3, but they were also outscored in every major statistical category — most notably aces (1-6) and blocks (3-8). 

Shortcomings at both the service line and net were the difference in the game, personified by Wildcats junior opposite Reagan Rutherford scoring 14 kills and junior middle blocker Elise Goetzinger blocking 4 shots.

“They have two pin hitters that hit with a ton of heat and a ton of range,” Keller said in an interview with the Daily Trojan. “I think their biggest weapon was their serve. I have not seen a team serve as aggressively and be as dominant as they were.”

USC will have a few days to recoup after back-to-back losses before playing a two game series against the University of Hawaii starting on Friday.

The Warriors are 2-4 on the season, fresh off of a five set loss to No. 22 UCLA on Sunday.

“It’s one of the most difficult places to play,” Keller said. “And that’s why I want to bring my team out here, because of how wonderful the culture is. They’re a team that’s going to be scrappy, and play a ton of great defense. I think it’s going to be quite an incredible challenge for us.”