The men’s volleyball team is hosting UC San Diego on Saturday to kick off their final homestand of the season. On Sunday, they’ll face No. 14 UC Irvine for Senior Night.
After Sunday’s match against the Anteaters, USC (6-16, 4-14 MPSF) will honor its four seniors: libero Brooks Varni, outside hitter Alex Slaught, middle blocker Tommy Leonard and middle blocker and opposite Josh Kirchner.
“It’s a little bittersweet, but I’m definitely trying to enjoy every single moment that I’m in Galen Center,” Varni said.
While all of the focus will be on the seniors on Sunday, the younger players understand that they have a part in finishing the season strong for the seniors.
“For us younger guys, we just want these seniors to go out with some big victories,” sophomore setter Jack Yoder said.
Last week, the Trojans dropped both of their matches against No. 4 Stanford and No. 6 Pepperdine in four and three sets, respectively. Despite the focused emphasis on serving in practice the week before, the Trojans didn’t perform well from behind the line last week.
Against Stanford, the Trojans served three aces and had 27 service errors — a 1:9 ratio. Against the Waves, it was much of the same. USC served two aces and committed 18 service errors. Once again, a 1:9 ratio. To put this in perspective, Stanford had 10 aces with 14 service errors, a 5:7 ratio. Pepperdine had five aces with 15 service errors, a 1:3 ratio.
Because of their serving errors, the Trojans gave Stanford 27 points — over a fourth of Stanford’s points without the Cardinal having to do anything.
This is an issue because head coach Jeff Nygaard talked about how serving has become a huge focus for the team.
“It’s an aggressive mentality that pervades other parts of the game,” Nygaard said.
The Trojans are nearing the final stretch of their schedule. After this final homestand, they will head off to face No. 3 BYU in Utah to complete their regular season.
If USC, currently ranked No. 11 in the conference, can finish 8th in the MPSF, they will squeeze in for the final spot in the MPSF Tournament. Right now, CSUN is sitting in that final spot with a one match lead over UC Irvine and Cal Baptist and a two-match lead over USC. CSUN also holds a two match tiebreaker over USC after defeating the Trojans in both meetings this season.
Looking at the Trojans’ pair of final home matches, they’re favored over UCSD (5-19, 0-18 MPSF), who holds the last spot in the MPSF standings with no wins in conference play. Against UC Irvine (8-17, 5-13 MPSF), the match is harder to predict with the Trojans having battled them recently and gone to five sets with the Anteaters five out of the last six times they played. UC Irvine broke that streak defeating USC 3-1 earlier this season in Irvine.
The Trojans will look to finish their season at home with wins against UC San Diego on Saturday at 7 p.m. and against UC Irvine on Sunday at 7 p.m. as they make a final push to make the MPSF conference tournament and keep their season alive.