USC looks for momentum against conference foes
Even with a playoff spot assured, the USC menâs volleyball team isnât taking the last two games of the regular season lightly.
Rather, the No. 6 Trojans know that wins at No. 14 UC San Diego and No. 10 Long Beach State this weekend would give them a huge boost as they head into the postseason. USC beat both teams 3-0 in January.
âWeâre looking to primarily have good momentum heading into this new season,â USC coach Bill Ferguson said. âI told the guys, âHow would finishing 5-1 at the end of the season feel instead of 2-4?â â not to harp on a year that might have happened a year before this one.â
Ferguson is referencing last year, when the Trojans finished the season winning only two of their last six games but ended up playing in the national championship match. Despite that, the Trojans are focusing on the present.
USC (14-10, 11-9) is playing for the sixth or seventh seed in the eight-team MPSF tournament that starts next weekend. The Trojans can get the sixth seed with a win or a UCLA loss this weekend. But if the Bruins win out and USC loses both its games, it will finish in seventh.
Either way, that means the Trojans will have to go on the road to play the first round, and they are using these road games to prepare themselves for that.
âWe just want to really clean things up and get to the point where we can build momentum for ourselves for the playoffs,â said Murphy Troy, junior and opposite hitter. âWe know weâre going to have to go on the road [during the playoffs], and we want to start the playoffs on the right foot. That means ending the regular season on the right foot.â
The Trojans had a tougher time than expected last weekend, having to go five sets in a win against Pacific and then losing in three sets to No. 1 Stanford in a game that was closer than the score indicated, was the absence of injured starting junior libero Tri Bourne.
Bourne broke his left thumb a week and a half ago in practice and hasnât played since. Ferguson listed him as day-to-day, and he has slowly been building up his practice time. In his place, Ferguson used junior outside hitter Sean Dennis and senior outside hitter Tyler Stevens, both of whom Ferguson praised as doing a solid job, but the team knows it is missing a key element in Bourne.
âWhenever youâre changing the lineup around at all, you got to expect some inconsistencies, and thatâs what we experienced this past weekend,â Troy said.
Dennis started 17 games for the Trojans last year, and Stevens has three years of experience on the team, so Ferguson knows he has capable players ready to go if Bourne canât play.
âWeâre going to wait and see. Tri has been practicing. Tyler and Sean have been practicing and playing outside,â Ferguson said. âWeâre prepared for what the situation may be but we just donât know. Weâre going to have to see how the bone heals and how much pain [Bourne] can tolerate.â