The BYU women's volleyball team had a 27-match home winning streak dating back to 1992 broken last weekend when it lost to San Jose State.
Friday in the opening round of the BYU-hosted Mizuno Challenge, the Cougs extended a streak in the other direction. The ninth-ranked Cougars (5-2) lost their second home match in a row, this time to No. 16 USC (5-1) in three games, 15-10, 15-13, 15-5."They are so experienced in the middle and we're so young in the middle - that was the difference in the match," BYU coach Elaine Michaelis said.
The Cougars fell behind early in each game and never really threatened the Trojans. Their best run of the night came in the second game after the they had fallen behind 14-5. BYU scored eight consecutive points and won side outs on four game-point serves, but it wasn't enough.
In the third game the Cougs also dug themselves in a major hole, as Southern Cal scored the first nine points. Led by senior Marianne Clark, the Cougars played better in the final few minutes of the third game, but the Trojans had too big of a lead.
"We got intimidated a little bit because their timing was so good and they have so much experience," Michaelis said. "The only time we really played well was when it really didn't matter because the games were over in people's minds. Then we relaxed and played better."
Clark finished with a team-high 14 kills, while sophomore Gale Oborn and senior Virpi Ollilla had 12 each. All-American setter Charlene Johnson had 43 assists with seven kills and a team-best .384 hitting percentage. USC's All-American middle blocker Meika Wagner had 16 kills and 10 digs. The Trojans finished with a .230 hitting percentage while BYU hit just .112. Despite two consecutive losses Michaelis isn't about to push the panic button. "By the end of the season we'll measure up better," she said. "We need to learn to believe in ourselves and continue to work hard in practice and learn from our experiences."
In the opening match of the tournament Utah had little trouble downing Gonzaga 15-4, 15-9, 15-6. Julie Kirby led the Utes with nine kills.
"We executed our game plan right to a T.," said Utah coach Beth Launiere, whose team improved to 4-5. "It was our best match of the season, by far."
Utah will play USC tonight at 6 p.m., while BYU faces Gonzaga at 8.