It’s safe to say the USC men’s volleyball team has underwhelmed at the start of the 2013 season, as the group’s inexperience, combined with the loss of two key players, has dropped the Trojans to 3-8 in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation competition.
As such, the team’s upcoming four-game road trip will be crucial toward determining how much the team must do to match the success of the 2012 squad.
After a grueling homestand that saw them drop three straight matches following an opening win against Cal Baptist, the Trojans leave the Galen Center for Northern California, where they will take on Pacific and Stanford this weekend in an attempt to salvage their season.
“We had four matches in seven days, which we’ve never done since I’ve been on any staff here,” USC head coach Bill Ferguson said. “It was taxing physically and mentally, as guys were returning to the lineup, and it was a tough time in the season to have that stretch.”
The win against Cal Baptist put the Trojans at 3-5 and offered some hope heading into matches against some of the tougher opponents in the conference. The momentum failed to generate wins, however, as USC dropped consecutive decisions to BYU, UCLA and UC Santa Barbara by margins of 3-1, 3-0 and 3-1, respectively.
“We’re starting to improve and get comfortable with the guys on the court,” Ferguson said. “Against Cal Baptist, our team did a nice job weathering the storm and controlling their serve. The next few matches, you saw us get off to slow starts in the first set. We’ve been playing very well in the third and fourth sets but, for whatever reason, it doesn’t seem to work.”
Ferguson also noted that the final three matches of the homestand were all quite similar in that the final score did not exactly represent how well the team played. Though the Trojans were outplayed both offensively and defensively throughout the majority of those matches, it was often the product of small stretches of poor play that negated longer periods of consistently strong production. Ferguson noted that the extended period of rest was critically beneficial to the team.
“The time off was huge,” Ferguson said. “The guys need it and, hopefully, it’s enough time. For the most part, we’re in a fairly good cycle for practicing and days off and playing. We saw this coming long before the season started, so we think we have a pretty good plan in place.”
Though Pacific and Stanford represent tough challenges for the Trojans, the team has the added benefit of having seen both of these opponents this season, including in a 3-0 sweep of the Cardinal at home on Jan. 18.
“We’re mired near the bottom of the league right now and Pacific’s right near us,” Ferguson said. “A win against them would be huge because we need to start climbing and beating teams near and ahead of us. We need to have a solid showing against them to stay in the hunt for the playoffs.”
Following the two tilts in the Bay Area, the Trojans will trek to Honolulu, where they will face Hawai’i twice the following weekend to conclude their last four-game road trip of the season.