Following a loss to Cal State Northridge on Friday, the Trojans rebounded with a victory against Cal Baptist, winning in four sets, 25-13, 25-22, 21-25 and 25-21. USC’s record improves to 5-2 overall and 4-2 in conference play.
The Trojans started the first set strong with kills by junior outside hitter Cristian Rivera, sophomore outside hitter Alex Slaught and freshman middle blocker Andy Benesh. Errors by Cal Baptist caused the Lancers to call an early timeout, as USC began to pull away with an 11-5 lead.
The timeout proved futile, as USC’s momentum could not be stopped. A block by Benesh and a kill by freshman outside hitter Lucas Yoder extended the Trojans’ lead to 15-6. Consecutive aces from Micah Christenson brought the score to 23-9 in USC’s favor. An error by the Lancers set up game point for the Trojans and a kill by Slaught ended the first set in a 25-13 Trojan win.
“We served really well and put their offense under pressure,” said head coach Bill Ferguson. “Our transition kills were big for us and really helped us in the first set.”
In the second set, both teams committed errors that prevented the other from gaining an advantage. A kill by Slaught and a block by Rivera gave USC a 17-15 lead, though errors by the Trojans kept the Lancers in the game. A service error by the Lancers and a kill by Yoder, followed by a block by Lischke set up game point for USC. A kill by Rivera won the second set for the Trojans, 25-22.
The third set began much like the second, with neither team able to gain a significant lead over the other. Despite kills by Slaught and Yoder, the Lancers pulled ahead to a 24-20 lead, and the Trojans were unable to stop them. The Lancers won the third set, 25-21, to keep themselves in the match.
“Our errors killed us this set, and especially the timing of those errors,” Ferguson said. “They came right as we were building our momentum.”
The Lancers erased an early USC lead in the fourth set and would tie the game at 12. The Trojans regained their lead just as quickly, thanks to kills by Slaught and Yoder.
An error by the Lancers and a kill by Yoder set up match point for the Trojans. An ace by Christenson won the fourth set for the Trojans, 25-21.
“We went back to basics and we reset,” Rivera said. “We got our rhythm going again and we got ourselves back to the pace we wanted.”
The Trojans host Brigham Young University on Feb. 1 at 5 p.m. in the Galen Center.
“We have to focus on our passing and play defense against a team like BYU,” Slaught said. “We really have to come together and play like a team.”