No. 24 women’s volleyball takes on Cal after heartbreaking loss 

The Trojans aim to preserve their perfect home record against the Golden Bears.

Senior middle blocker Lindsey Miller had four blocks in USC’s contest against Washington State. Miller is second on the team in blocks with 88. (Joy Wang / Daily Trojan)

Following four straight victories, three of which USC didn’t drop a single set, the Trojans’ win streak came to an end after losing a thrilling match against then-No. 9 Washington State. Despite leading 2-0 heading into the third set, USC got complacent and failed to complete the upset. The Trojans will battle UC Berkeley next, a team that has lost four straight, but defeated USC back in October.

Although the loss to the Cougars (20-7, 10-6 Pac-12) was disappointing, the Trojans (17-9, 11-5) still remain amongst the Pac-12’s best as the season winds down. While the Golden Bears (15-12, 4-12) have struggled lately, the Trojans’ 3-1 loss to them last month was one-sided. 

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“The Pac-12 has never been stronger. I think if we finish strong in the Pac-12, we’re looking good for the NCAA [tournament],” said senior middle blocker Lindsey Miller. “As a team, we’re starting out really well. We’re coming out hard against good teams, and we just need to find a way to finish at the end.”

Freshman outside hitter London Wijay, who was awarded Pac-12 Freshman of the Week honors for the fourth time this season, stepped up big for the Trojans in their trip up to Washington. Wijay posted back-to-back double-doubles in the two-game split against the Huskies (14-13, 5-11) and Cougars, and totaled 28 kills across both games. 

Senior outside hitter Skylar Fields led the way for USC with 22 and 29 kills respectively over both matches. Fields has helped the Trojans become the leader in the Pac-12 in total kills (1,408) thanks to her dominant offensive play. While it is late in the regular season, Fields has shown no signs of slowing down, as her 29 kills against WSU was a career-high, and she hasn’t dipped below 20 kills in a game since Oct. 13 against then-No. 3 Stanford. 

“I am really trying to focus on extending my range, and I just am feeling good right now. My setter is giving me great balls, so I just feel like I’m able to go up there and do it,” Fields said. “We’re just trying to finish out strong, take every single team that we’re playing very [seriously] because any night, somebody can turn it on, so I think we’re just going to try to finish up the [Pac-12] strong.”

Junior setter Mia Tuaniga continued to create opportunities for her teammates, as she had double-doubles in both games, with double figures in both digs and assists.

Cal was a team that started off hot, going undefeated in non-conference play, before immediately struggling in Pac-12 play. However, the Golden Bears shocked USC in the two teams’ previous matchup. Cal’s stunning seven aces along with a stout performance from freshman outside hitter Maggie Li gave the Trojans trouble in a rough part of the season.

Like Wijay, Li has also made an immediate impact as a freshman for Cal. Li has taken home the Pac-12 Freshman of the Week award five times and leads the Golden Bears in total kills (394). The Trojans must focus on limiting her production in the upcoming matchup to prevent a repeat of the last one. 

Junior setter Annalea Maeder leads Cal in assists (910) and service aces (39). She led the team in both of these categories in the Golden Bears’ previous win over USC. 

“[Cal is a] really good team, they’ve been through a lot the past couple of years,” said Head Coach Brad Keller. “They have a young group, [they’re] fearless, [they] don’t have any patterns, can pass and play defense better than anybody, and have a freshman sensation that’s just lighting it up. So, [they’re] a really big danger for us.”

USC remains undefeated at Galen Center with a 10-0 home record, and still has three more home matches remaining. If the Trojans can keep up this dominant home play, they should finish the regular season on a high note. USC sits fourth in the Pac-12, trailing Oregon (22-5, 12-4) and Arizona State (24-4, 12-4) by just one conference game. At this point, no match is a guaranteed win, and consistency is key for the Trojans.

USC will take on the Golden Bears Friday at 7 p.m. Galen Center.

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