USC topples Long Beach State following five sets
It was the Trojans‚Äô (10-1, 10-1) second five-set match of the season, and only the fourth time in 11 matches that they did not complete a sweep.
The Trojans exhibited their multi-head attack with four players recording double-digit kills. Junior outside hitter Tony Ciarelli led the charge with 17 kills and 13 digs. Senior outside hitter Tri Bourne had 13 kills, 12 digs and three blocks, senior middle blocker Austin Zahn finished with 14 kills and senior opposite Murphy Troy finished with 12 kills, five aces, 11 digs and two blocks.
The Trojans hit .315 for the match, well under their season average, while the 49ers (8-6, 7-4) hit .253. Senior setter Riley McKibbin finished with 60 assists to go along with nine digs.
Long Beach State commemorated their 1991 national championship team before the match, a team which defeated USC on its way to the NCAA title. Combined with a typically raucous crowd, the energy in the building would have derailed a less-veteran team.
‚ÄúI don‚Äôt think the energy affected us,‚ÄĚ said USC coach Bill Ferguson. ‚ÄúTheir serving and our passing was really what affected us. They had an unbelievable game from the service line, like most teams have at home.‚ÄĚ
The match featured a clash of titans from the service line; Troy finished with five aces and 49er senior opposite Jim Baughman finished with four.
Long Beach State finished with a total of eight service aces for the match and served the Trojans out of system for part of the match. They also finished with only 12 service errors.
‚ÄúThat‚Äôs an astonishing ratio,‚ÄĚ Ferguson said. ‚ÄúLong Beach does a great job blocking when you‚Äôre out of system against them. They served us out of system and did a good job blocking us when we became predictable hitting the ball.‚ÄĚ
The Trojans were able to pass better as the night went on and incorporate the two-headed middle blocker monster in Zahn and junior Steven Shandrick.
Zahn finished with 14 kills earned at a .524 clip and Shandrick finished with nine kills and five blocks while hitting .474.
‚ÄúWe really clicked when we settled down and passed the ball so we could run the middle,‚ÄĚ Ferguson said. ‚ÄúWhen we were able to incorporate them, that was the difference in the match.‚ÄĚ
Defensively, the Trojans were led by freshman libero Henry Cassiday‚Äôs 18 digs. Long Beach State All-American middle blocker Antwain Aguillard finished with only six kills.
‚ÄúWe did key on [Aguillard], but they helped us out a little bit,‚ÄĚ Ferguson said. ‚Äú[Senior setter] Riley [McKibbin] was blocking the outside hitter when Aguillard was up front, so they thought they should go after him. Riley‚Äôs not a bad blocker, so that hurt them.‚ÄĚ
This strategy did not bode well for the Long Beach State outside hitters, who hit .255 and 1.52 for the match.
‚ÄúThey‚Äôre mostly a two-man band,‚ÄĚ Ferguson said. ‚ÄúThey needed their outsides to produce.‚ÄĚ