Women of Troy begin second half of Pac-12 play

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first_imgAfter one go-round through the gauntlet of the Pac-12, the Women of Troy are alone atop the conference standings.The No. 3 USC women’s volleyball team (15-3, 10-1) has recovered from a loss to then-No. 8 UCLA in its conference opener at Galen Center, stringing together 10 consecutive wins — the first time since its national championship season in 2003.That feat is even more impressive as Pac-12 teams occupy five of the top seven spots in the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll.Greatness · Senior outside hitter Alex Jupiter, a two-time All-American, leads the Women of Troy with 262 kills and 26 service aces this season. – Chris Pham | Daily Trojan“We couldn’t have started the first half [of conference play] any worse, and we couldn’t have finished it any better,” USC coach Mick Haley said. “When you have six matches on the road in the first half and you’re able to win all six, that’s a very big deal.”Entering the second half of conference play, USC understands it must not look ahead to its final game of the season just yet against UCLA in Westwood.“I think you have to take [matches] one at a time, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say we circled the last game against UCLA,” Haley said. “We’d like to give a much better effort [next time].”Haley, however, has remained even-keeled.“All of our matches are important, of course,” Haley said.  “All of them will serve as a challenge for our team to get better for [the NCAA tournament].”This weekend, the Women of Troy will kick off the second half of conference play against Utah and Colorado, both of which are unranked.But at this point, USC isn’t taking any opponent lightly.“We’re making sure that our focus is on [every match] because we don’t want to relax in any way,” senior outside hitter Alex Jupiter said. “We have a lot of things we can still improve on.”The Utes (8-12, 3-8) and Buffaloes (5-14, 0-11) will be looking for revenge this weekend after they were swept by USC on their respective home courts in their first matchup this season.“This is the second half, and it’s a little bit more difficult because those teams are going to be a little bit more confident,” Haley said. “Every team is going to give their very best effort against us now.”Utah has won two of its past four games, a sign of hope for a team that seems to have struggled adjusting to the competitive nature of Pac-12 volleyball in its first year in the conference.But the Utes do seem to have a statistical advantage in their middle defense. The Utes are third in the conference with 3.04 blocks per set, while the Women of Troy are averaging just 1.98, which ranks ninth in the conference.“We’re doing some different things on defense now,” Haley said. “We’re not really smooth at the transition part of that yet, so we’re trying to see if we can clean that up.”The Buffs are still looking for their first conference win, as they rank at the bottom of the conference in nearly every statistical category.“Colorado wasn’t at full strength when we played them last time,” Haley said. “I think they’ll be better this time.”The Buffs are led by outside hitter Kerra Schroeder, who ranks seventh in the Pac-12 with 4.06 kills per set.Even though this weekend’s matches might not be the most highly anticipated contests left on their schedule, the Women of Troy realize every game counts the same in the standings.“Every team is going to get so much better in the second half,” Jupiter said. “We have to make sure that we do the same.”last_img

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