The No. 1 USC men’s volleyball team swept No. 8 Long Beach State 3-0 (30-28, 31-29, 30-23) last night in the team’s first game at the Galen Center this year.
Junior opposite hitter Murphy Troy led the Trojans with 20 kills, and it was his play at the end of the second game that made sure USC didn’t let Long Beach into the match.
With USC up one game and leading 25-24 in the second game, Troy and Long Beach senior middle blocker Dan Alexander went on a tear that saw the two opposing stars score eight of the last 10 points.
After Alexander got a kill and then Long Beach blocked Troy to give the 49ers game point at 29-28, Troy put the Trojans on his back and killed the next three points to give USC the crucial second game.
“I was just screaming for the ball and luckily [junior setter Riley McKibbin] gave it to me,” Troy said. “I got blocked at 29-28 and I definitely was not happy about that, so I wanted to get it right. We put them away in game one but we couldn’t let them back in the match. We had to win that second game.”
After saving game point and taking a two-game lead, USC came out fired up in the third game to keep the feisty 49ers at bay.
“After the second set, I think our guys were pretty motivated and focused,” coach Bill Ferguson said. “There was a lot of talk on the bench to go out there and try and put these guys away, and I thought they did a nice job.”
Long Beach wasn’t ready to concede the match yet. But with the score tied 8-8, USC broke the game open with a 16-5 run, and the 49ers never got closer than five the rest of the game.
“When you’re up two games we know how easy it is to relax, so we just stepped on the pedal right there,” junior outside hitter Tri Bourne said. “One of our goals is to sweep a lot of teams this year, so that’s what we went for tonight.”
Bourne set the tone early for the Trojans, recording six kills in the opening game as the 49ers focused on stopping Troy and junior middle blocker Austin Zahn.
Bourne’s domination in the first game caused the 49ers to adjust and that opened up the floor for Troy later in the match.
“Tri had a great game, and he’s a great player,” Troy said. “With the lineup we have and the weapons we have a lot of teams are going to try to make Tri beat them and that’s what Long Beach started to do tonight and Tri beat them. Then, they realized they had to be more balanced, and that’s when we spread the ball around and became more successful.”
Bourne’s quick start helped the Trojans establish an early lead, something that’s been a weak point all season. And unlike Friday’s game against UC Irvine, the Trojans came out firing from the start. They built a four point lead early and kept that margin until Long Beach came back late thanks to some heavy kills by Alexander.
With Alexander leading the way, the 49ers came within one point multiple times late in the first game, but some timely kills by Bourne and Troy ensured USC got the first game victory it wanted.
“We focused on that a lot in practice,” Bourne said. “We know we came out soft in some games and like coach said, he wants us to take the first punch, so that’s what we went out and did.”