Trojans play host to two top-15 teams
The USC menâs volleyball team finish up its brief stint playing at North Gym this weekend as it takes on No. 11 Pacific on Friday, and then host No. 3 Stanford Saturday night in a crucial conference matchup for both teams.
The Trojans (16-4, 12-4) rank second in the nation, behind conference rival UC Irvine. The Trojans beat the Tigers (7-11, 4-11) in Stockton earlier in the season, while the Cardinal (14-5, 11-4) were the top-ranked squad when the visiting Trojans topped them in the five-set thriller on Feb. 25.
That win was the fourth in a row, and the Trojans have not looked back since, currently on an 11-game tear.
Success is great, but the Trojans have been focusing all week on making sure neither rematch will be a letdown. Considering the Trojans sit second in the conference standings, every remaining game is crucial toward setting themselves up to make the four-team NCAA championships this April.
âEvery game is our biggest game of the year,â senior co-captain and outside hitter Tony Ciarelli said.
In addition, the Stanford match will bring the usual excitement and fire that comes with a conference rivalry matchup.
âI always want to beat my friends,â Ciarelli said. âA couple of guys on their team Iâve played since I was a freshman.â
With only three more weeks of games, the Trojans continue to tinker with new lineups.
âWe have two basic lineups … and weâre not sure which one to go with right now,â USC coach Bill Ferguson said.
This past weekâs game served as an example of this, as redshirt sophomore libero J.B. Green started and played half the game against George Mason University, while freshman opposite hitter Cristian Rivera also earned his first start of the year.
âHe has been on a steady incline all season,â Ferguson said.
Fergusonâs additional trust in the freshman should manifest itself in the pair of upcoming games.
In addition to focusing on their own play, the Trojans will take a different approach to their opponents this weekend.
âWeâre going to focus on the skill sets of individual players on the other team rather than their play as a whole,â Ferguson said. Luckily, the Trojan squad wants nothing but the same result theyâve gotten since Feb. 10 âÂ a win.
Though the North Gym has been a great throwback to the storied history of the program, it seems like the players and staff are glad to be returning to the Galen Center for the final two home games of the year.
â[The North Gymâs] biggest difference is also its biggest advantageâ said Ferguson. âItâs loud and thereâs nowhere to go.â
To commemorate a return to North Gym, Fridayâs match will be Beach Night, with free sunglasses and beach chairs given away, while Saturdayâs match will be Retro â80s night. Both games this weekend begin at 7 p.m.