Women's volleyball: USC overcomes deficit against crosstown rival UCLA for five-set win
LOS ANGELES – The No. 21 USC women's volleyball team (9-3, 1-0 Pac-12) claimed a hard-fought five-set win (25-21, 15-25, 18-25, 25-21, 15-11) over crosstown rival No. 11 UCLA (7-3, 0-1) at Pauley Pavilion on Wednesday, Sept. 20, to open Pac-12 play. It was the Trojans' second five-set win this season and was the fourth five-setter in the last six times they've faced the Bruins. The win snapped a three-match losing streak to UCLA and moves the Women of Troy to 32-10 in all-time conference openers.
Senior opposite hitter Brittany Abercrombie lit up the stat sheet with a career-high 18 kills (1e) and 40 attacks to log a .425 hitting percentage. She also added four digs and a block to her final line. On the left, sophomore outside hitter Khalia Lanier produced 17 kills (9e, 50att, .160) to go with seven digs, a solo block, and two service aces. Sophomore opposite Daley Krage had her second consecutive double-digit outing and finished with 10 kills (6e, 27att, .148) and two digs.
Despite facing 11 blocks by the Bruins, USC posted a .251 hitting percentage with 64 kills (22e) on 167 swings. UCLA hit .301 (66k, 19e, 156att) and out-dug the Trojans, 73-62. The Women of Troy won the service ace battle with an 8-5 edge.
Senior setter Reni Meyer-Whalley dished out 24 assists and had 12 digs to log her second double-double of the season (11th career). Sophomore setter Cindy Marina had 26 assists and five digs. Junior libero Victoria Garrick put up 18 digs and had a career-best 10 assists for her first-career double-double. It is the first double-double by a USC libero since All-American Natalie Hagglund posted 24 digs and 10 assists on Sept. 1, 2012, in a win over Boston College.
Junior middle blocker Brittany Welsh scored five kills without an error (8att) for a .625 hitting percentage. She also threw in a career-best three service aces including two in a row during USC's run to win the fourth set. Sophomore defensive specialist Jenna Adams put up eight digs and scored on two service aces. Junior outside hitter Alyse Ford had seven kills (1e, 15att, .400) and two digs; and senior outside hitter Niki Withers added five kills and a solo block as each played in three sets apiece.
For the Bruins, five players reached double-digit kills, led by Reily Buechler's 15-kill and 19-dig performance. Jenny Mosser had 14 kills, Mac May had 13; and Kyra Rogers and Madeleine Gates had 11 apiece. Savvy Simo led all players with 20 digs while Sarah Sponcil set the Bruins with 56 assists and eight digs.
The Women of Troy opened up the match with three kills on five rallies to lead, 4-1, quickly. UCLA took a momentary lead at 6-5, but a 5-0 run by the Trojans had USC in front, 10-6, in the blink of an eye. The Bruins chipped away at the lead slowly and closed to within a single point at 20-19 on a kill by Mosser, but USC claimed set point at 24-19 when Lanier crushed an overpass for the kill. Abercrombie scored her fourth kill of the opening frame to close out the USC win.
The teams were in a heated struggle to open set two, but things got out of hand quickly when the Bruins raced out to a 12-6 lead thanks to an incredible 9-2 run. UCLA led by nine points when it claimed set point at 24-15, but didn't need long before Rogers closed out a 25-15 win for the Bruins with back-to-back kills. The third set opened up USC's way as Lanier tooled the block on back-to-back rallies for a 5-1 Trojan lead, but the Bruins were unfazed as they fought through to take a 10-9 lead of their own. A 6-0 run all of sudden had the Women of Troy on the ropes as UCLA led, 15-9. USC closed within three at 18-15, but UCLA took over once more and scored seven points in the last 10 rallies to finish off a 25-18 win.
USC never trailed in the fourth and was only tied once at one-all. Krage tooled the Bruin block three times for kills to help the Trojans get out to an 8-4 lead, and back-to-back aces by Welsh put USC in front by six at 13-7. The Women of Troy claimed an eight-point lead at 18-10, but UCLA stayed the course to close within three at 22-19 on a service ace. UCLA saved a pair of set points before Abercrombie went crosscourt for the kill and sealed a 25-21 USC win in the fourth.
USC played a clean set in the fifth and finished with just one hitting error and 10 kills for a .450 hitting percentage. UCLA had nine kills, but the Trojans posted a 72-percent sideout rate to complete a 15-11 win. Efficiency led USC to a stunning 7-1 lead with three kills from Abercrombie, one from Lanier, and an ace from Adams. USC pushed for a seven-point lead at 12-5 when Dunn and Krage teamed up to block May. UCLA mounted a comeback, but had its runs diffused by kills from Ford. Still, the Bruins persisted and claimed three straight points to close within three at 14-11 before Lanier's cut shot ended things for a Trojan victory.
Up next, USC returns to Galen Center for the first time since Aug. 26 and will host Oregon State (10-3, 0-1 Pac-12) on Sunday (Sept. 24) for a 4 p.m. ET match set to be shown on Pac-12 Los Angeles and Pac-12 Oregon.
The matchup between USC and UCLA was the first of the 2017-18 academic year. The Trojans' win earns USC five points in the all-sport crosstown cup rivalry challenge between the two schools. UCLA won the head-to-head battle in 2016-17.