The Trojans picked up a pair of wins in its weekend home stand versus Hawaii on Friday and Saturday. The Trojans (9-4) swept the first match with scores of 25-22, 25-18 and 25-18 and won in a five-setter with scores of 25-17, 24-26, 25-22, 16-25 and 15-10 on Sunday.
The Trojans’ blocking scheme shined throughout both matches. The Trojans finished the weekend with 31 blocks compared to Hawaii’s 21. The blocking differential gave the Trojans the edge over the course of the weekend where neither team hit above .210.
“We did a good job blocking,” said USC coach Bill Ferguson. “[Assistant Coach] Jeff Nygaard’s been putting together great scouting reports and blocking schemes and it’s really showed in the last month.”
In Friday’s match, the tough Trojan block created a bevy of problems for the Warriors. Senior middle blocker and co-captain Steven Shandrick finished the match with eight kills and seven blocks and redshirt sophomore opposite Tanner Jansen led the way with 12 kills earned at a .500 clip.
“They hit a lot of cross-court shots right into where I block,” Shandrick said. “We’ve been expecting it and working on it all week and it’s good that we executed.”
The Warriors committed 15 service errors and 25 hitting errors in Friday’s match, exacerbating the impact of the Trojan block. Although the Trojans’ offensive efficiency was suspect, finishing with just a .195 percentage, the Trojans managed to shut the door on a Hawaii comeback.
In a ceremony after the match, the jerseys of former USC-All Americans Steven Timmons, a three-time Olympic medalist, and Adam Johnson, the 1986 National Player of the Year, were retired in front of 1,500 fans.
Sunday’s match required a shot of energy from the Trojans’ senior outside hitter and co-captain Tony Ciarelli in an uncharacteristically sloppy match. Ciarelli finished with 21 kills earned at a .340 clip.
“Tony did a great job leading,” Ferguson said. “He set the tone during the fifth set and rallied our guys.”
The Warriors received an unexpected boost in the second set. Hawaii looked completely lost in rotations and were penalized twice for procedural errors. Although Hawaii paid for the botched rotations with a couple of points, they began to play more focused and loose volleyball.
“Their botched lineups forced them to just play volleyball and forget the little stuff,” Ferguson said. “They started to tee off from the service line that caused us some trouble passing.”
The Trojans also shuffled their lineup, inserting freshman middle blocker Ben Lam and shuffling redshirt junior and senior outside hitters Jeff Carlson and Steven Mochalski with junior Maddison McKibbin and Jansen in an effort to remedy shaky performances.
Between sloppy play from USC and a surge of inspiration from Hawaii, the Trojans were forced into a tie-breaking fifth set to decide the match.
“We were able to get back to our normal lineup in the fifth set,” Ferguson said. “And we responded well with our backs against the wall.”
The Trojans jumped out to an early lead and never looked back, channeling the dominant play from Friday’s match.
“I said the same thing as I did right before the fifth set at Stanford,” Ciarelli said. “Everyone plays the fifth set with emotion, but it’s really about execution. You can’t let your emotions control you or else you’ll see your lead slip away.”