We’d go out there and kind of just went in one ear and out the other. We just need to focus on the small things when we play. —Tawnee Luafalemana
SALT LAKE CITY — Tawnee Luafalemana said she and her teammates could see what they needed to do to avoid an upset against No. 19 USC, but they just couldn’t seem to do it.
“I just don’t think we played our best match,” the senior middle hitter said after USC beat No. 12 Utah in a five-set match 21-25, 28-26, 20-25, 25-21, 15-9. “I think they gained confidence as the match went on. I think it was just a systematic breakdown.”
She said they discussed specific adjustments and technical breakdowns in timeouts, but they just didn’t translate into consistent changes on the court.
“We’d go out there and kind of just went in one ear and out the other,” she said, “and not really know what to do. We just need to focus on the small things when we play.”
Statistically, the teams had similar outings at the net, with Utah’s hitting percentage at .168 and USC’s .174. But Utah’s outsides and right sides struggled mightily, with team leader Adora Anae finishing with a .040 hitting percentage. She led the team with kills (14), but she also had 12 hitting errors.
Luafalemana said there were communication issues in the sets where they struggled.
“Sometimes it was like people blaming or it was, like I don’t know, but like confusion between the balls and stuff,” she said, noting she can’t remember a more inconsistent offensive outing. “I thought their block was good, but not that good.”
Utah head coach Beth Launiere said the offensive woes began with passing issues.
“When you have passing struggles, everything starts to break down,” Launiere said. “I just don’t think we played our best match. I think they gained confidence as the match went on, and by set five, we just couldn’t respond anymore.”
She said looking at both team’s stats, the fact that the Trojans were better at the net was surprising.
“I thought we blocked OK, but they outblocked us,” she said. “Statistically, that probably didn’t look like a match that would happen in.”
Launiere said the players were unhappy with how they played last weekend, even though they won both road games. They hoped to avoid a "wake-up call" in the form of a loss, but Luafalemana admitted that’s exactly what Sunday’s loss would be.
“It is what it is,” Luafalemana said. “I feel like everyone in the locker room is like, ‘Did that really just happen?’”
She said she plans to revisit the team’s preseason goals as a way to refocus the team and energize it for the second half of conference play.
“It sucks,” she said, “but it happens in seasons.”