The No. 13 USC men’s volleyball team prepares for a two-game road trip in Illinois this upcoming weekend.
Having lost five-straight games and coming off of a three-set sweep to No. 1 Long Beach State, USC faces another tough challenge, with No. 8 Lewis and No. 7 Loyola-Chicago up next.
After starting their season with three consecutive losses, Lewis has been on a roll, winning five straight games, including an impressive 3-1 win over then-No. 9 Cal State Northridge. Lewis’ best player as of late has been redshirt freshman middle blocker TJ Murray, the reigning MIVA Defensive Player of the Week. Murray had a combined 14 blocks and 21 kills while hitting .647 and .667 in the Flyers’ recent two wins over Cal State Northridge and No. 14 UC Santa Barbara.
Loyola has been equally hot, winning its last four matches with only two dropped sets in that span. The Ramblers’ last three wins have all been over AVCA top 25 teams, including UC Santa Barbara and Cal State Northridge as well.
This will be the fifth all-time match between Loyola and USC, as the Ramblers seek their first-ever win over the Trojans.
This weekend, the USC men’s volleyball team will have to play confidently in order to come away with two wins. Offensively, they will rely heavily on redshirt junior outside hitter Jack Wyett, who is leading the team with 107 kills.
Fellow junior outside hitter Gianluca Grasso will hopefully continue his aggressive attacking and increase his already growing number of service aces. Additionally, junior outside hitter Ryan Moss will be a contributor offensively, as he has been all season with a remarkable hitting percentage.
The Trojans will also need to rely on outstanding freshman middle blocker Sam Lewis. Lewis has the highest hitting percentage on the team by a significant margin (0.383) and he will look to continue to play with that momentum. Redshirt junior Connor Inlow will be another threat in the middle blocker position.
Of course, none of this offensive game would be possible without the setting duo of redshirt senior Gert Lisha and freshman Chris Hall. Lisha currently averages 6.14 assists per set, while Hall is averaging 8.95. Holding down the defensive game, junior libero Matt Douglas will continue to create opportunities for the offense and remain a solid presence on the court, alongside freshman libero Cole Paxson.
Though USC’s record is not pretty (3-5), the Trojans still remain ranked in the top 15 largely because of their brutal schedule; five of their first eight games have been against top 10 teams, and all but the season opener have been on the road. If the Trojans can pull off at least one upset, they should be prepared for a strong February, with four home games and two in nearby Malibu and Westwood.