Despite another highly competitive match, the USC men’s volleyball team faltered once again in the second of its three-game road trip. The No. 10 Cal State Northridge Matadors overcame the Trojans in four sets, 25-17, 18-25, 25-21, 25-22, dropping them to a record of 2-4 on the season.
As has been the trend of late, USC looked sluggish out of the gate, hitting a dismal .077 in the first set. The Matadors took advantage of the Trojans’ slow start by racking up a hitting percentage of a blistering .611, including six kills by outside hitter Brandon Lebrock. After USC fell behind midway through the set, Cal State pulled ahead and an attacking error by sophomore setter Micah Christenson gave the Matadors the set 25-17.
USC was able to turn it around in the second set, riding an early 7-2 run to comfortable lead. Though the Matadors were able to keep pace for the rest of the set, they could not overcome USC’s early advantage. Thanks largely to the clutch play of redshirt junior opposite Tanner Jensen and sophomore middle blocker Robert Feathers, who tallied a combined 10 hits, the Trojans were able to take their first, and only, set of the night.
“Going into the second I thought we showed some resolve and thought we executed really well,” USC coach Bill Ferguson said. “We served a lot better, we passed a lot better and we just had a really good side out set.”
Though the momentum appeared to have swung in the Trojans’ favor, the Matadors were able to steal it right back. CSUN returned to its first set form for the rest of the match, hitting a combined .523 in the remaining sets. The attack was led, once again, by CSUN’s Lebrock as well as opposite John Baker, who combined for an impressive 40 kills and .557 hitting percentage on the night.
“We didn’t do a very good job blocking their two main guys, Lebrock and Baker,” Ferguson said. “We’ve had trouble against Baker in the past because he’s a little unorthodox in how he attacks the ball and he had a great match.”
The Matadors took down the Trojans with ease in the third set but faced a tougher challenge in the fourth. Though they had fallen behind once again, the Trojans were not to go down without a fight. The fourth set was highly contested and came down to a few crucial points at the end. Unfortunately, a late service error by Jensen cost USC the set and gave the Matadors the match in four.
“We need to just keep buckling down. Our guys can play volleyball, but we just haven’t been able to follow a game plan and be disciplined to it all the way through the match,” Ferguson said. “There’s some really good things where I think experience is going to pay off in the long run, but the process has been a little bit painful.”
The Trojan’s look to close out the road trip on a positive note with a match against Long Beach State tomorrow night. They return to the Galen Center next Thursday to face the Cal-Baptist Lancers.