Trojans stun powerhouse Anteaters
Following a season-opening loss to UC San Diego, the USC men‚Äôs volleyball team is looking to re-group with a slate of matchups against top-ranked opponents.
The Trojans got off to a solid start in that regard, earning their first victory of the season by knocking off reigning champion and the No. 1 UC Irvine Anteaters 25-21, 25-23, 27-25 Friday night.
The Trojans atoned for their tough loss to the Anteaters in last season‚Äôs championship game in which they were swept on their home court. The victory enabled the Trojans to overcome their loss at the hands of UC San Diego, also a three-set sweep.
Sophomore middle blocker Robert Feathers shined on both sides of the court, registering a team-high 12 kills to go along with six blocks. Freshman outside hitter Alex Slaught and junior opposite Tanner Jansen each notched eight kills to pace the Trojan attack alongside Feathers, while the defense was anchored by freshman libero Brooks Varni (eight digs) and sophomore setter Micah Christenson (seven digs).
The Trojans are coming off a successful 2012 campaign, one in which USC coach Bill Ferguson lost four 2011 starters, including three All-Americans. After starting slowly at 5-4, the Trojans dominated the remainder of the season to finish with a No. 2 overall ranking and 26-4 record, including an 18-4 mark in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play to earn their second straight regular season title. USC thoroughly dominated its regular season schedule, posting an 18-game winning streak, a 14-match MPSF winning streak and an 11-game home winning streak.
As the Trojans attempt to make another trip to the NCAA Championship, youth will play a major role. Ferguson leads a 2013 squad featuring 18 underclassmen (including 10 freshmen) and only one senior opposite/outside hitter Maddison McKibbin.
After lagging behind the competition during the earlier part of the 2000s, the Trojans have developed a dependable program behind Ferguson, who is in his seventh season at the helm. The two-time National Coach of the Year has guided Troy to three NCAA Final Four appearances in the last four years. The team will attempt to make up for the absences of 2012 National Player of the Year Tony Ciarelli at outside hitter and All-American middle blocker Steven Shandrick.
Following the resounding win over the Anteaters, the Trojans (1-1) will return to the Galen Center for a three-game homestand, beginning with a match against Pac-12 rival Stanford on Friday night.