The No. 5 USC men’s volleyball team split their weekend road trip, coming up with a loss at No. 2 UC Irvine and a win against UC San Diego.
The Trojans (4-3, 3-3 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) visited UC Irvine’s (7-2, 3-2) Bren Events Center on Friday night. The Anteaters took a 6-3 lead in the first set and never looked back, winning in four sets.
“I’m not really sure where the slow starts come from, but nobody really had a good night, and [UCI] had an unbelievable night,” said senior outside hitter and co-captain Tony Ciarelli. “We kind of wait for the game to come to us, see how it feels, see how the other team does things. We’ve always been strong at the end of games because everyone on the team is so competitive, but we need to work on how we start.”
The Anteater trio of opposite Carson Clark, outside hitter Jeremy Dejno and middle blocker Dan McDonnell served the Trojans tough all night. The Anteaters finished with a season-high eight aces — seven from Clark and one from McDonnell. The Trojan passers had trouble controlling the barrage of tough serves, leading to a more predictable and unsuccessful offense. USC finished the match with a .234 hitting percentage — -almost a full tenth lower than Irvine’s.
“Clark and Dejno are two of the best servers in the league but McDonnell really killed us,” coach Bill Ferguson said. “Adding him to the serves from Dejno and Clark made it so that they had a great server every other rotation, and we just kept getting pelted all night.”
The Anteaters keyed on Ciarelli all night. The Trojans’ season kill leader had a team-high 14 kills but was held to an inefficient .105 rate.
“At times it looked like there were six guys on him,” Ferguson laughed. “But he had all three front row blockers on him lots of times. Because he was forced to hit so many high-balls, he was up against a solid block and was asked to do something near impossible in trying to score against that kind of defense.”
At UCSD, the Trojans ramped up their focus and won in a three-set sweep. Behind strong blocking and good ball control, the Trojans regained their composure.
“Our team responded great,” Ferguson said. “We learned from our experience last night [at UCI] and then moved on. I was very proud of how we bounced back last night.”
Redshirt sophomore opposite Tanner Jansen finished with a team-high 14 kills and finished with a .417 rate. Redshirt junior Jeff Carlson replaced Jansen at opposite at UCI after one set, but Jansen started against UCSD and played the whole match.
Carlson’s play as the fiery do-it-all solution off the bench proved to be valuable in both matches.
“I just wanted to come in to the game against UCI and bring some fire,” Carlson said. “I just want to do whatever I can to help the team. It doesn’t matter if it’s opposite or outside hitter. I just enjoy being on the court.”