Culver City Observer -

By Josh Finley
Sports Reporter 

Women of Troy Struggle, but do not count them out

 

October 14, 2021

Eric Lambkins

USC's Shannon Scully leaps to block a kill by Utah as Tyrah Ariail #13, Emilia Weske #3, and Mia Tuaniga #15 get ready to make a play.

"Simple plays were not executed, and a lot of points were left on the board." Those were the first words USC head women's volleyball coach Brad Keller said after his team suffered a tough loss to 17th ranked Utah last week at home at the Galen Center. With a Pac-12 conference winning percentage of .500 at 3-3, it will be the little things that make them a potential playoff contender. Being consistently aggressive throughout the sets, minimal service errors, and having strong communication are some of the main traits that must be corrected and improved in order for the women of Troy to compete in a tough Pac-12 league. They are 7-8 overall.

Brooke Botkin, a team leader and veteran of the team appears to have a great relationship with Keller, and so does the rest of the team and they are trying to adjust to his system. Keller has no problem using his time-outs when necessary and the players react by coming out refocused and understanding their roles on the court allowing them to fight back. A concern that Keller has mentioned is the up and down moments within each set that causes them to lose focus at the wrong time. And although he and the team are frustrated, they see the bigger picture. The overall goal is to refocus and catch themselves before hitting the bottom of the valley within a set, which allows Keller to save his time-outs and have the ladies on court use self-awareness when something is array.

USC has had the honor of having great players such as Khalia Lanier and Samantha Bricio in recent years to give the team an extra advantage, but this year is different. Different is sometimes good.

Mia Tuaniga, a freshman for the women of Troy has serves reminiscent of Bricio and Keller needs her powerful serves when the pressure is on. The trust Keller is having in his players is paying off as you see the confidence these players are building week by week.

Tyrah Ariail is another freshman that can leap out the gym when spiking it over opponents and deflect shots or completely block balls as a middle blocker. And even though she is a freshman, she is understanding the game on a more technical level as she answered a few questions by other reporters.

Another Trojan player to look out for is Candice Denny. She is being used as a huge component when the defense has to focus on the opposite side of the court. She is not a decoy, but simply another threat on the court when Botkin plays opposite of her. Keller has a growing trust in her too, but he also knows the amount of growth she has yet to tap into. "She has one of the better serves in the country," as Keller confidently states. Denny is sitting right beside him in the press conference expecting a different response but is surprised by the amount of potential Coach Keller sees in her.

Because of injuries so far this season, the frustration is clearly visible but with a healthy roster of players USC players will continue to grow in their roles as they build consistency in their execution. This is definitely a different team from what fans are used to seeing but as the team builds cohesion along with strategic game plans, future matches will be nail biters. Look forward to seeing substitutions that best fit match ups on certain rotations, servers being used at specific times, and time outs utilized to regain focus and remind players of the game plan.

The women of Troy play games on the road against Arizona on Friday and Arizona State on Sunday. They return home on Friday, October 22, at 7 p.m. to face Oregon State and Sunday, October 24, they play Oregon at 1 p.m. They continue their home stand the following week on Friday, October 29 against Washington at 8 p.m. and Sunday they play Washington State at 1 p.m.

 

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