49ers prove no match for top-ranked Trojans
The No. 1 USC Trojans menâs volleyball team swept the No. 8 Long Beach State 49ers with scores of 25-17, 28-26 and 25-19 for their 16th straight victory on Thursday evening at the Long Beach Pyramid. The victory gives the Trojans (21-4, 17-4) a share of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation title and puts them one win away from clinching the top seed in the MPSF playoffs.
The Pyramid in Long Beach is known in college volleyball to give the 49ers a huge home-court advantage due to its unique structure and its effect on visitorsâ depth perception. Coupled with the 49ers (14-14, 9-12) desperation to clinch a bid in the eight-team MPSF tournament, the visit was a potential trap-match for the Trojans.
âWeâre thrilled to win this and get it out of the way. Itâs a tough venue to play in. Hitting high balls is tough in here,â said USC coach Bill Ferguson. âThey served really tough and they have one of the better home court advantages in the league.â
National Player of the Year candidate Tony Ciarelli reeled off four straight kills en route to a 5-0 start to the match. The 11 aces are a USC match record.
âTonyâs serving was unbelievable,â Ferguson said. âHeâs had an unbelievable amount of focus in preparing for each of these matches.â
The Trojans staved off a 24-25 deficit in the second set after two straight hitting errors. Instead of folding, senior middle blocker and co-captain Steven Shandrick came up with a big block and a game-winning service ace to win in a 28-26 tiebreak.
âI needed that. I had a rough stretch in hitting over the course of the match,â Shandrick said. âThose points mentally got me back in the game and got me and the team fired up for the third set.â
The Trojans have not lost to a team ranked lower than them this year and have dropped only seven sets during the 16-match winning streak.
âItâs good to get the win in the pressure cooker,â Ferguson said. âIâm proud of how we responded in the second set in such a tough environment.â
Ciarelli led the way with nine kills to go and received plenty of help from his teammates. Freshman middle blocker Robert Feathers finished with four kills earned at a .667 clip and junior opposite Maddison McKibbin finished with five kills earned at a .571 clip in one set off the bench.
The Trojans head to No. 11 Cal State Northridge on Saturday evening in hopes of clinching the MPSF title. Cal State Northridge (11-16, 7-13) is fighting to clinch a spot in the MPSF playoffs.
âWe want to win the outright because sharing sucks. There are a lot of things riding on this match. We need to keep playing for our pride and for each other,â Shandrick said. âIf we keep playing like we do and keep improving like we do weâre setting ourselves up for a win.â