The No. 7 USC men’s volleyball team extended its winning streak to four games after sweeping unranked Cal Baptist 25-22, 25-21, 25-22. The Trojans improve to 10-5 overall and 9-5 in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play.
The Trojans quickly took an early 6-3 lead with a kills by sophomore middle blocker Tommy Leonard, junior setter Micah Christenson and freshman outside hitter Lucas Yoder. The Trojans advanced their lead to 11-6 after two more kills from Yoder and one from Leonard, respectively. The Lancers pulled within two points after two consecutive aces to make the score 12-10 in USC’s favor.
Kills from freshman middle blocker Andy Benesh, senior opposite hitter Tanner Jansen and Yoder brought the score to 19-16 in USC’s favor, though the Lancers’ defense kept the gap from widening. Another kill by Jansen and one from senior opposite outside hitter Maddison McKibben lifted the Trojans to a 22-18 lead. A service error by the Lancers set up game point for the Trojans and a kill by Yoder ended the first set 25-22 in the Trojans’ favor.
The Lancers led the second set 6-3 and eventually converted that to a 10-6 advantage thanks to their defense. Kills from Leonard, Christenson, Benesh and Yoder brought the score to a 16-11 Lancer advantage, and a block by Christenson closed the gap to 16-12.
“We didn’t serve well at all in the second set,” USC head coach Bill Ferguson said. “Cal Baptist picked up their game, and we fell off ours. We made a ton of errors that hurt us.”
Three consecutive kills by Yoder followed to bring USC within one point. An ace by Yoder and errors by both sides tied the game at 19 apiece. Two consecutive kills by McKibbin gave the Trojans a 21-20 lead, and an error by the Lancers brought the score to 22-20 in USC’s favor. A yellow card against Cal Baptist further shifted the momentum, and finally another kill by McKibbin and an error by the Lancers ended the second set 25-21 in a USC victory.
“Andy really stepped up for us in the second set,” Ferguson said. “That yellow card really woke our team up and gave us the extra motivation to win that set. It was the perfect storm.”
The third set began with both sides splitting each point, though finally two consecutive kills from Yoder gave the Trojans a 6-4 lead. Kills by Benesh and Yoder kept the Trojans ahead, despite offensive errors from their teammates. Cal Baptist’s defense tied the game at 8-8, and two kills by Leonard and one from Jansen put the Trojans back on top, though errors by the Trojans allowed the Lancers to tie the game at 14.
Again, both sides split the points back and forth until finally a kill by the Lancers and an error by the Trojans gave Cal Baptist an 18-16 edge over USC. Kills by Yoder and Jansen tied the game at 18, though a kill by the Lancers and a USC error again gave the Lancers a two-point advantage, bringing the score to 20-18. A kill from Jansen and an error by the Lancers tied the game at 21. A block by Leonard gave the Trojans a 23-22 lead, and a kill by Benesh ended the match at 25-22 for a Trojan victory.
“Our blocking and serving got better as the game went on,” Ferguson said. “Our blocking was our best run at the end and it’s what really did it for us.”
USC travels to Provo, Utah tomorrow to face the BYU Cougars, who beat the Trojans 3-2 earlier this month, in an MPSF match at 7 p.m.
“Last match we had spurts of brilliance, but at times we fell flat,” Ferguson said. “We have to play at a high level all the way through the match against BYU.”