The No. 1 USC men’s volleyball is preparing to play the last two matches of its regular season this week, the first against No. 8 UCLA at the Galen Center.
The Trojans (19-2, 18-2) split a two-match series against Hawai’i over the weekend, dropping the first match in five sets and winning the second in a sweep.
“That was a wake-up call for us,” said USC coach Bill Ferguson. “We were reminded that we can’t win just by showing up.”
This week, the Trojans will take on a Bruin team that has been one of men’s volleyball’s traditional powerhouses throughout coach Al Scates’ 49-year tenure.
Recent success, however, suggests a power shift in the entire sport. When presented with the idea though, Ferguson brushed that idea off.
“Whatever happened before Thursday night doesn’t matter,” he said with a laugh.
When the Trojans and Bruins last played at the end of January, senior opposite Murphy Troy finished with 26 kills earned at an exceptional .512 rate.
“I think we just ended up with some favorable matchups,” Troy said. “Our offense has evened out more, so I don’t expect to have that kind of stat line after this match.”
UCLA features a strong pair of middle blockers, junior Weston Dunlap and junior Thomas Amberg. Dunlap is second in the conference in attacking efficiency. Freshman outside hitter Gonzalo Quiroga has also emerged as a stabilizing force for the Bruins.
“If Quiroga can stabilize their passing, we can have some trouble with their quick attack,” Ferguson said.
But the top-ranked Trojans are not letting today’s rivalry matchup distract them from the task at hand,
“It’s more about finishing the season off strong than anything else,” said senior outside hitter Tri Bourne. “We just need to take care of it.”
This will not be the last time USC and UCLA face off.
Although it is the last time they will see each other in the regular season, the two are currently set to meet again in one week in the first round of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament.
The tournament is scheduled to begin April 23 at 7 p.m. at Galen Center.
“This is just the 21st match of the season to us,” Ferguson said. “We’ll temper the emotional stuff. That will hopefully come at the end of May.”