The Loyola Marymount women’s volleyball team played so well in its first two games Wednesday night against USC that it was difficult to tell the Lions started four freshmen.
Loyola challenged the nationally ranked Trojans before losing, 15-13, 16-14, 15-3, at Gersten Pavilion.
USC is ranked eighth nationally by the American Volleyball Coaches Assn., and Loyola didn’t make the top 30.
“Loyola has a very solid volleyball team,” USC Coach Lisa Love said. “We expected them to give us a lot of trouble. They have a lot of good, solid players who really know how to play the game.”
One of those is freshman Suzanne Radcliffe, a 5-foot-11 outside hitter from Torrance High. The two-time All-Southern Section player had a match-high 17 kills and 11 digs.
“We just decided to go after it because we had nothing to lose,” Radcliffe said. “We proved that we can play with them and that we’re an up-and-coming team.”
Trailing, 14-6, in the first game, the Lions scored seven consecutive points. But the Trojans were able to hold off Loyola’s charge and won.
The second game was tied six times before Loyola took a 14-10 lead. The Lions had two chances to win before the Trojans rallied.
At 14-14, USC’s Missy McCaw served two consecutive points for the game.
The Trojans dominated the final game, taking a 10-1 lead. Loyola made a series of errors and managed only two points after that.
“We actually had opportunities to win, but unfortunately we served so poorly,” Lion Coach Steve Stratos said. “USC also played very well and they did things that were very disciplined, and they didn’t make any mental errors.”
Loyola freshman Kim Blankinship, the 1992 Southern Section Division III player of the year at Torrance, also was impressive in her college debut.
The 5-foot-8 outside hitter had 12 kills and four digs.
USC was led by sophomore outside hitter Kelly Kuebler’s 14 kills.
“They play very confident and solid volleyball,” Love said. “That team will be a force in its league, and that’s a league that was once exclusively dominated by Pepperdine.”
Loyola will compete in the UC Irvine tournament this weekend. The Lions play host to Cal State Northridge on Tuesday at 7 p.m.