Lanier, USC bounce back with four-set win over Oklahoma

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USC coach Mick Haley waits for an official's decision during a challenge Friday against Oklahoma

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — A day after losing to Maryland, USC gathered itself Friday and beat Oklahoma 25-19, 23-25, 25-20, 25-20. Now the 18th-ranked Women of Troy will head into Pac-12 play — they go to UCLA on Wednesday — 8-3 and clearly needing to re-focus.

“We’re not there yet, for sure,” veteran coach Mick Haley said. “We don’t seem to be able to travel and play well. And we have to have Khalia finish.”

That would be sophomore All-American outside hitter Khalia Lanier, who struggled Thursday in a three-set loss to Maryland but bounced back Friday to lead USC with 22 kills while hitting .340. She also had nine digs and four blocks.

“I talked to (assistant coach) Jason (Kennedy) about it and he reminded me that I kind of forget what I’m capable of sometimes,” Lanier said. “I second-guess myself and that’s definitely something I need to work on and just play my hardest and not be so passive on whether it be defense or hitting or passing. Staying confident out there is what made me so much better today.”

Brittany Abercrombie had another strong match. Against Maryland, the senior opposite had 10 kills and hit .474. Against Oklahoma, she had 16 kills, hit .387 and had two blocks.

“I’m really proud of our team. I thought we fought really hard today, coming back from the loss yesterday,” Abercrombie said. “I think we have a lot more to offer and I think that’s going to come in practice, working really hard and grinding every day.”

Haley is still tinkering with the lineup and liked getting junior Alyse Ford on the right side. Ford, who played right side on USC’s spring trip to Europe, had five kills.

USC also got a big match from Daley Krage, The 6-foot-4 sophomore opposite who had 12 kills, three digs and two blocks. Krage missed all of last year with an injury and came back early in August.

“She was low error, scored points and did a nice job blocking,” Haley said. He was also buoyed that 6-4 senior middle Jordan Dunn played in back-to-back matches as she battles back injuries. Dunn had three kills and three blocks.

“I think last year we had an idea of what our starting lineup was all year,” Lanier said. “This year we’re so dynamic and such a deeper team when it comes to our bench, so we may have started with the same people the first couple of weeks but now you can see it’s changing and the coaches are making the changes where they need to be made.

“So we definitely have to keep working hard in practice and holding each other accountable.”

That and pick up the intensity.

“I think our losses have happened because we start slow and we end slow,” Abercrombie said. “We never really pick up our drive or fight and we have recognized that. And it’s good that we recognize that during the preseason because now we’re working to fix it, as we saw today. We played with a lot of fight and a lot of energy and we really wanted to win.”

That wasn’t lost on Haley, who expected more on this cross-country trip.

“I felt like we should beat a good Maryland team and that we should beat Oklahoma,” Haley said. “And I am disappointed in our lack of confidence in ourselves.”

Oklahoma (3-8) made it tough, especially winning the second set but then USC got some help in the third set when OU coach Santiago Restrepo got a red card. The Sooners got big performances from their junior outsides. Alyssa Enneking had 20 kills, 10 digs and two blocks, and Madison Drescher had 18 kills and two blocks. Their teammates, however, combined for 15 kills and hit .065.

Oklahoma opens Big 12 play Wednesday when Kansas State heads to Norman.

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