Mired in a fourth-set 11-11 deadlock, senior opposite Murphy Troy, renowned for his serve, approached the service line.
The USC men’s volleyball team would win the next nine points on the strength of Troy’s four aces — one of which even ricocheted off a defenseless Bruin player’s face.
The No. 1 Trojans (6-0, 6-0) extended scoring streak in the fourth set eradicated any chance for the No. 4 Bruins (7-3, 2-2) to mount a comeback, as the Trojans cruised to a 25-22, 23-25, 26-24, 25-16 victory.
Though Troy, the incumbent NCAA Player of the Week, amassed stratospheric numbers, he was not alone in his success.
USC coach Bill Ferguson attributed much of the victory to the adjustments his middle players made to their blocking scheme after the second set.
“Our middles did a great job of adjusting to their middle attack toward the end of the match,” Ferguson said. “Their middle blockers hit for pretty good numbers at first, but when it counted, I thought our guys made the stops and forced a couple of errors.”
In all, the Trojans out-blocked the Bruins 14.5 to 7.
Statistics and analytics aside, perhaps the Trojans’ most impressive quality thus far has been their ability to quash all attempted comebacks, as they have yet to allow their opponents to engage them in a five-set match.
Ferguson drew a parallel between this match and the only other match this season in which the Trojans have ceded one set.
“What I’m most happy about is that we’re closing matches out,” Ferguson said. “Similar to the UC Irvine match, there were a couple of emotional sets in the second and third, but we came back to finish it before it got out of hand.”
Of course, one cannot neglect the additional satisfaction derived from trouncing a storied rival in the hallowed Pauley Pavilion.
USC fans, especially students, came in droves to this match to absorb this rivalry and naturally, to heckle a UCLA sports program that has struggled immensely this year against any team donning the cardinal and gold.
“It was a great atmosphere,” Ferguson said. “Our fans came in partway through the first set and made their presence known, countering the Bruins’ fans. The UCLA fans were great for them, and made it a real hostile environment. After the match, [the USC fans] stayed and cheered for us, chanting guys’ names individually. That was really cool.”
USC now enjoys a two-week hiatus during which the team’s strength and conditioning coaches will work to build up players’ stamina, ensuring the team is prepared for the extensive set of games ahead.
The Trojans will return to action against No. 8 Pepperdine Feb. 11.