USC women’s volleyball faces a challenging task against Pitt

Photo of usc women volleyball team against Pitt.

The Trojans concluded their season in the second round of the NCAA tournament, facing the Pittsburgh Panthers on the Panthers’ home court. This match reflected the challenges USC women’s volleyball has faced over the past two seasons, heavily relying on senior outside hitter Skylar Fields.

In the clash against Pitt, the Trojans fell in four sets, marking the end of their season. Despite Fields contributing a team-high 21 kills—no other Trojan managing more than six—she also recorded 10 attacking errors. Notably, USC had a 1-3 record this season when Fields made double-digit errors.

“I approach every game the exact same way,” Fields expressed in the postgame press conference. “I’m going to give my all to my teammates. And it’s a team game, so I can’t do everything. We fought, we battled, and we’ve been doing that every single day.”

Initially, the Trojans seemed in control, securing a closely contested first set at 25-23. A 5-1 run, featuring two of Fields’ kills, helped close out the opening set. Redshirt sophomore middle blocker Tyrah Ariail contributed to the effort with four of her six kills in the first set.

Head coach Brad Keller acknowledged the team’s capability, stating, “Clearly, we can play at that level; we just have to sustain it.” However, Pitt’s No. 4 ranking showcased their prowess, especially in the second set, where the Panthers responded with a 13-4 run to claim a 25-20 victory. The height advantage of Pitt’s roster played a significant role, resulting in 10 attack errors for USC, seven of which were attributed to Pitt blocks.

The Panthers] responded well, and we just didn’t quite respond enough to get back and lost that rhythm,” Keller commented. “It can happen like that; it can happen pretty quickly, and it did. We were trying to figure it out, and we just couldn’t.”

Pitt’s graduate middle blocker Emma Monks, registering eight blocks in the four sets, and freshman opposite hitter Olivia Babcock, contributing six blocks, showcased their dominance for the Panthers, capitalizing on their height advantage against a shorter USC team.

With five Pitt players standing at 6-foot-4 or taller, compared to only two for the Trojans, USC struggled to match up in terms of height. Coach Keller emphasized the strategic challenge, stating, “It’s really a puzzle. When they start blocking you or they’re taking your lines, you’re gonna start hitting more across, you’re gonna tip out the setter. You’re just trying to create different scenarios.”

Despite a strong effort in the initial two sets, USC couldn’t sustain it in the final two, resulting in 25-18 victories for the Panthers. The third set proved particularly challenging for the Trojans, with Pitt establishing an 18-7 lead, proving insurmountable. Although USC narrowed the gap to seven points by the end, the 11-point deficit and Pitt’s impressive .481 hitting percentage created a significant challenge.

Sophomore libero Gala Trubint acknowledged the difficulty of overcoming Pitt’s strong runs, stating, “A team like Pitt, when you get on runs, they’re not a team that you can just come back on. They’re a good team; when they get on a run, they’re gonna keep that run going unless they’re stopped… I think we let off the gas a little in the third set, and it might’ve cost us in that one.”

The final set saw Pitt taking a 2-1 lead and maintaining control throughout, despite the Trojans tying the score at various points.

Looking ahead, the Trojans, likely bidding farewell to Fields due to graduation, remain poised for success in the coming years. With 12 out of 19 players on the roster being freshmen or sophomores, and three of them starting in the first set, the team’s youthful composition provides a promising foundation. The recent recruitment of four high school prospects further enhances the team’s potential for the upcoming year.

As USC transitions to the Big Ten in 2024, the team will strive to build on the successes of this season in their new conference.


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