Women’s volleyball hunts for a curtain call

The Trojans open their season Aug. 25 and begin conference play Sept. 20.

Sophomore libero Gala Trubint will be a key piece for USC in its last Pac-12 campaign after leading the team with 416 digs just a season ago. Trubint and the rest of the Trojans will look to get wins in the NCAA tournament. (Tomoki Chien / Daily Trojan file photo)

In its final season in the Pac-12, USC women’s volleyball looks to add to its successful 2022 campaign. The Trojans went 22-11 last year and won their first NCAA tournament game since 2019. Here’s what to look out for and expect from the team this season.

The Trojans will lean on graduate outside hitter Skylar Fields to lead the offense. A first team All-American last season, Fields had the second most kills in the country with 598.

Graduate middle blocker Kalyah Williams will also return for one final season. Last year, the former Washington State Cougar blocked a team-leading 100 attacks and had the fourth most kills on the team.

Head Coach Brad Keller has recruited four incoming freshmen and three transfers for the upcoming season.

Graduate transfer libero Ellie Snook will share playing time with sophomore libero Gala Trubint. At Portland State, Snook was a three-time Big Sky Libero of the Year, and during her senior season, she broke the school record in career digs. Meanwhile, Trubint’s 416 digs last season were a team-leading mark.

Two other newcomers, freshman setter Allie Hazelwood and graduate setter Emily Fitzner, will combine with sophomore setter Adonia Faumuina and junior setter Mia Tuaniga to form a crowded setter position. After recording 58 service aces and 1,308 assists last year, Tuaniga is primed to be the main setter for the Trojans.

Keller may also receive offensive support from incoming freshman outside hitter London Wijay. The two-time CIF Player of the Year decided to forgo her final year of high school to join USC.

USC will navigate through a conference in disarray. UC Berkeley, Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon State, UCLA and Washington all changed their head coaches during the offseason.

However, the Trojans will still have to contend with Stanford, Oregon and Washington State, all of whom finished ahead of USC in the Pac-12 standings.

With three 2022 AVCA All-Americans on their squad, the Cardinal have a strong chance to repeat as conference champions. Led by fifth-year opposite hitter Kendall Kipp, Stanford had the highest hitting percentage and the lowest opponent hitting percentage in the Pac-12.

The Oregon Ducks return with outside hitter Mimi Colyer, who was AVCA National Freshman of the Year last season. Meanwhile, redshirt senior setter Hannah Pukis will orchestrate the Ducks’ offense after becoming the third setter in Oregon history to receive All-America honors.

Finally, fifth-year middle blocker Magda Jehlárová is close to breaking several school records at Washington State this season. The three-time All-American can become the school leader in blocks, sets played and matches played, depending on how well she performs.

USC will open its season Aug. 25 against Houston on the road. Later, the Trojans will battle against future Big Ten opponents when they play Illinois and Purdue in mid-September. Conference play won’t begin until Sept. 20 when they take on UCLA.

The Trojans will play 14 games against teams that made the NCAA tournament last year. USC was 1-7 against ranked opponents last season. The Trojans will have to improve that if they have any hopes of getting back to the NCAA tournament.

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