Women’s volleyball bounces back, wins Trojan Challenge

Women's volleyball team join in on a group huddle.
Women’s volleyball defeated New Mexico State, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and San Jose State en route to Trojan Challenge victory (Julia Hur | Daily Trojan File Photo).

USC women’s volleyball won all three of their games at the 2022 Trojan Challenge without giving up a single set, bringing their season record to 8-3. 

The Trojans defeated New Mexico State in 3 sets Thursday. Senior outside hitter Skylar Fields and sophomore setter Mia Tuaniga led the team with 13 kills and 26 assists respectively. The first set saw the Aggies take two 4 point leads late in the game, but the Trojans came back to take the win at 26-24. Following the slight misstep, the Trojans won the next \ two sets decisively at 25-17 and 25-16 respectively. 

On the second day of the Trojan Challenge, USC took just 3 sets to defeat the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Friday. The Trojans opened the first set on fire, making quick work of the Panthers with a 25-14 win. Milwaukee was more of a threat in a second set that saw 610 lead changes and a late 26-26 tie before freshman outside hitter Jordan Wilson put the game away, winning 28-26. In the final set, USC controlled the lead and finished strong, winning 25-17.

USC faced off against San Jose State on the last day of the tournament Sunday trouncing the Spartans in 3 sets. The first set started off close but eventually the Trojans were able to pull through and win 25-21. The team played cohesively in the next set, propelled by 5 kills from Wilson and won at a decisive score of 25-15. The Trojans were able to clinch the victory in the last set with a score of 25-21, backed by 9 kills from Fields even in the face of several service errors. 

Head Coach Brad Keller credits the team’s ability to execute for their win Sunday. 

“I felt like there were highs and lows to the game,” Keller said. “When we really needed points when we needed to make plays, I think our girls stepped up.”

Fields felt that one of the keys to the team’s success was the performance of the team’s middle blockers. 

“They did a really good job lining up with the hitters, getting good touches so it was really easy for [senior libero Keila Barra], [freshman libero Gala Trubint] and I to play back row defense,” Fields said.

Against San Jose State, Fields led the team with 16 kills while only recording two errors. Although the team won in a sweep, only allowing the Spartans to score 21 points in their first and third set, Keller still felt the Trojans showed room for improvement. 

“Yeah there’s a lot of things we could improve on,” he said. “Honestly serving the ball … in that last set we had like 6 or 7 service errors which was ridiculous. I think touching the ball better, just controlling the touches.”

Fields held similar beliefs on what she needed to improve on for the upcoming season.

“For me it’s all about the passing and serve game that’s really what I’m trying to improve my skill on,” Fields said. “But also I think we did a really good job today blocking. We worked on that all week,” Fields said. 

Coming off the momentum of their win streak, the team has championship aspirations in sight. 

“I think our biggest goal is hopefully a good run in the tournament and win a national championship but right now we’re focused on the Pac-12 championship,” Fields said. 

“When you come to SC, no matter what anyone says or how a team is good or bad, you need to compete for championships. That’s what this school is about, and it will always be about that,” Keller said. “The goal is to play at that level and be consistent playing at that level and we saw glimpses of it, but it hasn’t been consistent.”

Next week’s matchup against UCLA marks the start of the Trojan’s Pac-12 season. Since 2000 the USC women’s volleyball team is 25-18 against UCLA. 

UCLA is off to a 6-3 start and has split their previous 4 matches, including a recent loss to the University of San Diego. The Trojans will face off against the Bruins Sept. 22 in Pauley Pavillion.