USC women’s volleyball opened its 2022 season last weekend with an impressive win over opponents in the Cardinal and Gold Classic.
The No. 24 Trojans opened the tournament on Friday night against Colgate. The Trojans started the first set hot, defeating the Raiders 25-13 and keeping Colgate at a negative percentage.
Colagte tried to recover in the second set and scored 20 points, but it wasn’t enough to keep up with the Trojans, who recorded 17 kills in that set alone. USC then easily won the third set, posting a batting average of .457.
“We are well on the way to founding a championship team,” said older opponent Emilia Weske after the game on Saturday morning. “People out there know what we’re about.”
The Trojans continued their hot streak in their second game of the tournament on Saturday morning when they faced UMBC. The Trojans opened the match with a 25-15 win in the first set, posting a .393 batting average.
The second set proved much more difficult for the Trojans, however, and USC fell to a 15-6 hole midway through the second set.
It was a team effort for the players to hit back again.
“We just tried to keep talking about what we’re doing and treat each point like another rally,” Weske said. “We didn’t look too much at the result, we just approached every ball with a neutral attitude and really kept the communication going and that helped us lean on each other and get us out of the hole.”
The Trojans fought hard but managed to fight back and eventually drew level with 22 players.
“Good serves and patience and being able to capitalize on opportunities, all of those things allowed us to come back and try,” said head coach Brad Keller. “The fact that we were able to pull off this second set was really good for us.”
Despite the Trojans’ improved game, the Retrievers continued to struggle in the second set until USC clinched a 30-28 win.
“It’s just a mentality,” Keller said. “You have to stay out of this. You have to win an ugly point. You have to hit the ball on the block, flip the ball, or do something else that will cause a bit of stress.
The Trojans carried their hot streak into the third set where they quickly finished the Retrievers in a 25-12 win.
“We’re very excited,” said Weske after the second game. “We’ve got to focus through the second set and into the third so we’re really glad we swept back to back which saves a bit of leg strength because we have another match tonight.”
In addition to winning their matches, the Trojans also have to worry about conserving energy over the course of a long tournament.
“Three games in two days is not ideal and I think we will have the opportunity not to do that in the future,” said Keller. “But it’s really about keeping [the team] as fresh as possible and simple game plans and making sure we are on time in everything we do.”
Despite their fatigue, the Trojans struggled through and played their third game of the weekend against Villanova on Saturday night. The Wildcats gave USC their toughest fight of the tournament, holding the Trojans to a .214 average, their lowest average in all three games. However, the Trojans secured their win in a three-set sweep with 25-21, 25-19, and 25-21 victories.
“[We want to set] a relentless mentality,” said Keller. “At the end of the day there will be ups and downs, but if you are relentless in everything you do, good things will happen.”
The Trojans will be back in action next weekend when they travel to Omaha, Nebraska to compete in the Bluejay Invitational.