Trojans look to shake off rust at home
If games were won and lost on paper, the madness that ensues in March would likely disappear into oblivion.
And while the No. 7 USC menâs volleyball teamâs 6 p.m. match against the Grand Canyon Antelopes lacks the flair and unpredictability of another collegiate sport this time of year, the concept of not overlooking an opponent still applies â even if that opponent hails from a Division II school.
For the Trojans (10-9, 8-8), tonightâs match with GCU (14-19) couldnât come at a better time. While the month began with optimism and renewal, the team has fallen on hard times. As most of the universityâs students took the last week off for spring break, it seems USCâs most recent performances reflected a similar mental and physical hiatus.
The Trojans traveled to Provo, Utah last week to face the No. 4 Brigham Young University Cougars, and despite early season success on the road, the teamâs trip proved to be neither business nor pleasure. They dropped two matches in rather disappointing fashion (3-1, 3-0) and tied their season-high losing streak of three matches.
As for Grand Canyon, this season hasnât exactly panned out the way the team had hoped. After a disastrous first season at the helm of the âLopes, in which he saw his team go 4-25, Chad Speer created a schedule that he hoped would challenge his players. This season, GCU has taken road trips to play several Division I schools, including Ball State, Pacific, Ohio State and Pepperdine. And while the team has yet to win more than one set in any of those matches, a trip out to Southern California this week to face UCLA on Wednesday and USC on Thursday is all part of Speerâs plan to instill confidence in a program still looking to make a name for itself in Division II athletics.
Aiding the Antelopes in their rebuilding process are two emerging stars, outside hitter Brock Hutchins and setter Brad Moore, who the Â team will rely on if they hope to make a dent on this upcoming road trip. Hutchins, a converted beach volleyball star, leads the team in kills (502). Moore, a local from Orange, Calif., enters tonightâs match with 57 kills and 200 digs on the season.
For USC, the task at hand seems highly manageable: End a three-game losing streak against arguably the least experienced opponent it has faced all season. And with a schedule that included the likes of UC Irvine, BYU, Hawaiâi and Cal State Northridge, who could blame the team if it chooses to overlook the Antelopes.
Nevertheless, the Trojans have not been shy about letting people know that they have not even begun to assume a âWâ will be etched beside tonightâs match. If this championship-starved team has learned anything in the midst of a highly rigorous schedule, itâs that a sense of entitlement ceases to exist once the whistle is blown.
âThe match is just as important as any other,â junior outside hitter Tri Bourne said. âWe have prepared for GCU the same way we prepare for all the other teams. Every game is just as important as the next at this point in the season.â