In the midst of a disappointing mid-season stretch that has seen the club fall short of title aspirations, the USC men’s volleyball team will alter its approach and simply look to end the season on a positive note.
The Trojans return to the Galen Center for their final two home games of the season, as they host Long Beach State tonight before taking on Cal State Northridge on Saturday night.
The 2013 season has not been kind to the Trojans, who sport a dismal 5-15 record just one year after notching 26 wins and reaching the NCAA championship final against UC Irvine. After a promising 3-1 win against Pepperdine on March 21, USC has hit another road block, dropping a match 3-2 to Cal Baptist before suffering a sweep at the hands of BYU last Saturday (14-25, 15-25, 24-26).
Though the Trojans had to deal with a quick turnaround in travelling to Utah and now face the No. 1 Cougars on Saturday, USC head coach Bill Ferguson was not interested in using the long trip as an excuse for the losses.
“It was tough, but that’s why we’re playing,” Ferguson said. “Our job is to have our guys ready to make that trip and perform that task, and we didn’t do as good of a job as we could have done to get ready for it.”
The Trojans were led by redshirt junior opposite Tanner Jansen, who contributed nine kills off the bench. Freshman outside hitter Alex Slaught notched eight kills while hitting a sound .462, and sophomore setter Micah Christenson added seven digs.
But the Trojan defense proved no match for a powerful Cougar attack. BYU junior outside hitter Taylor Sander recorded 17 kills while hitting a sterling .762, and freshman opposite Ben Patch put together 10 kills and 5 blocks.
USC gave BYU a run for its money with a strong, hard-fought third set. Ferguson pointed out that his team played quite well at stretches yet again failed to channel this into any type of match-long consistency.
“We had issues passing the ball all through the first set and through the first half of the second set,” Ferguson said. “I thought that our level of play in certain areas was, again, fantastic in the first half of the first set, but once we hit the middle we started to make poor attack decisions. But BYU, to their credit, made some unbelievable defensive stops.”
In previewing this week’s matches, Ferguson placed added emphasis on the team’s return to the Galen Center for its final two home games.
“I’m hoping our home facility isn’t actually foreign to us,” Ferguson joked, noting the team’s forced move to the Lyon Center following a stretch of other conflicting events at the Galen Center.
“I think having played the matches this weekend will prepare us for this week’s matches. BYU runs a varied offense which is similar to what Northridge does,” Ferguson added, “and Cal Baptist is oriented to the outside hitter which is very similar to what Northridge runs, so we’re going to try to tweak some things and build on that.”
The Trojans have just one senior on the roster in outside hitter Maddison McKibbin. But McKibbin, a co-captain, will likely redshirt after sitting out the entire season while recovering from a stress fracture in his right shin.
Following this week’s games, the Trojans will once again hit the road for the final time this season, squaring off against UC Santa Barbara and UCLA next week.