The men’s volleyball team protected their home court against previously undefeated Long Beach State after battling it out in four sets to advance their record to 2-2. While the 49ers forced a fourth set and stayed with the Trojans throughout most of the set, USC fought until the victory was theirs.
“I will never be satisfied until I’m done with what we are trying to do,” head coach Jeff Nygaard said to the Pac-12 Network. “I love winning and that’s the whole reason why we put in all this effort and time.”
Before the game, Nygaard challenged his team to focus more on their own game instead of Long Beach State’s record or stats. For him, it was more about what they would do on their side of the net than trying to control what the 49ers were doing. After some close losses, that focus and perseverance paid off.
“I don’t see the other side of the net differently,” Nygaard said. “I look at my team and I say, ‘If we do what we need to do on our side of the net, we can beat anybody.’”
USC started off the match strong in the first two sets, leading for almost the entirety of both. After getting down early in the third set, however, the Trojans were never able to come back, despite cutting the lead in half.
The fourth set saw the two teams exchanging points back and forth, with neither team able to pull ahead until a block by senior outside hitter Lucas Yoder spurred a run by USC that essentially clinched the game.
Yoder led the team with a total of 28 kills, which was more than both of Long Beach State’s top two hitters’ kills combined, which totalled up to 23. Not only is he making the plays to keep his team in the game, but also forcing teams to find a way to stop him, which has been shown yesterday to be a difficult task given his stats in the last couple of games.
The performance came off a series of team-leading performances for Yoder. He recorded 33 kills in the team’s loss to Penn State on Saturday, coming only three shy of the school rally scoring era match record set at 36 by Brook Billings. The senior has been a leader for all four of his years with the program, and he continues to set the bar high for outside hitters on Nygaard’s squad.
“He played at a level that was, for what I think of his ability, at the standard,” Nygaard said. “I think that is what he is capable of on a consistent basis.”
A key to the victory for the Trojans was the ability to counter Long Beach State’s star sophomore outside hitter TJ DeFalco. Throughout the team’s first three shutout victories, DeFalco led the team with 37 kills. He continued in rhythm against USC, notching 13 kills, but that performance was outweighed by Yoder’s continued success on the attack.
Ultimately, the Trojans outplayed the 49ers in almost every category, with more kills, more assists, more blocks and more digs. The victory evened out the season’s record for the Trojans, who struggled against other top-ranked teams in their last two games.
The season was stacked to be challenging from the start — the Trojans traveled to No. 1 Ohio State and then took on No. 14 Penn State at home, leading to back-to-back losses. With a win against No. 3 Long Beach State, however, the team is beginning to right itself and steer in the direction that Nygaard hopes to see each game, no matter which opponent his team is facing up against.
While each individual play adds up to make these totals happen, Nygaard stresses that one play does not win a game. He believes that his team’s success comes from the perseverance throughout in which every play is treated as the key to victory.
“Any game is important,” Nygaard said. “I don’t look at anybody as a matchup like it’s anything special. Every game is important. Every point is important. There’s no such thing as a big point.”
USC will look to build off of this victory as they take on Cal State Northridge at 7 p.m. at the Galen Center on Saturday.