Written by Dave Dulberg, USC blog contributor
For the second straight season, the USC women's volleyball team was denied a chance to play for the NCAA title, after losing in five sets on Thursday night to Illinois (25-27, 25-18, 25-22, 18-25, 15-10) in the national semifinal.
As was the case in last weekend's Honolulu Regional against Hawaii and Pepperdine, Mick Haley's squad was forced to play from behind late in the match, after dropping the second and third sets. If the Women of Troy had defeated the Illini, not only would they have been playing for the program's first NCAA championship since 2003, and fourth overall, but they would have been the first team in NCAA history to win three straight 5-set matches in the tournament.
In a losing effort, seniors Alex Jupiter and Lauren Williams finished their USC careers with 32 kills (23 of which came in the final two sets) and 18 kills respectively. Senior Kendall Bateman also saved her best for last, recording season-highs in assists (65) and blocks (4).
Last year, the Trojans were eliminated in the Final Four, after being defeated by Cal in straight sets.
While the Illini will now face the Women of Troy's crosstown rival UCLA in the title match on Saturday night, on a brighter note, the 2011 squad became the first USC team since the perfect 35-0 National Champions of 2003 to win 30 matches in a season.
Here's coach Haley along with Jupiter, Williams and Katie Fuller after last night's loss to Illinois...