LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- One night after a stirring comeback earned the Saint Mary's volleyball team an NCAA Tournament win, the Gaels couldn't find that magic again in losing 28-26, 25-16, 25-19 to No. 4-ranked USC.
With the loss, Saint Mary's finished the season 18-11. The Gaels rallied from two sets down to beat San Diego State on Thursday, advancing to Friday's match against USC at the Galen Center. Saint Mary's finished third in the West Coast Conference, earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
"We could've done some things better but we certainly did a lot of things well," Saint Mary's head coach Rob Browning said. "I'm proud of our girls. I thought they represented well and I'm proud of the way they played."
Facing the Trojans (29-5) on their home court, Saint Mary's (18-11) looked every bit USC's equal in the first set. Gabby Jolly converted nine of 13 attempts, hitting a staggering .615 in the set and leading the Gaels offensively.
But for all the back and forth, USC had the answers when it needed them. A kill by Jolly gave the Gaels set point at 26-25, but a block by Alexis Olgard evened the score. A kill by freshman Samantha Bricio, followed by another block by Olgard, gave the Trojans the first set victory.
"I think USC figured some things out about us after the first set and took advantage of those things," Browning said. "I think they're a very good team and they're playing very well. They're one of the handful of candidates to win the national championship."
USC put some distance between itself and the Gaels in the second set, led by the tandem of setter Hayley Crone and the big arm of Bricio outside.
An attack error by USC brought Saint Mary's to within three at 18-15, but the Trojans controlled the action from there, winning the second set comfortably.
USC took the lead early in the third set and never looked back. Kristina Graven provided most of the Saint Mary's offense in the frame, but the Trojans stormed out to a lead and won the set handily to take the match.
The match represented the last night in a Saint Mary's jersey for the Gaels four seniors -- Jolly, White, Lauren Corp and Anna Schroeder. All four were leaders in addition to being talented, and all left their mark on the Saint Mary's program.
"I think we overcame a lot of adversity with some of the injuries we were dealing with," Corp said. "Even through all that, we played a lot of tough games and won a lot of tough matches and I'm proud of all my teammates for that."