The No. 14 USC men’s volleyball will host conference rival Stanford on Thursday night.
After a disappointing 0-2 road trip in Illinois, USC looks to put behind a rough 3-7 start to its season when it plays Stanford in just the second home game of the year for the Trojans. Having lost in three and four sets to Lewis and Loyola-Chicago, USC is searching for a much-needed win to regain some confidence in a team that is slowly tumbling in the national rankings.
Stanford is coming off its second win of the season to a respectable UC San Diego team, but the Cardinal’s potential, like USC’s, may not be fully realized yet. Five of Stanford’s losses have been to top-10 teams, including Ohio State, Cal State Northridge, UC Irvine and twice to No. 1 Long Beach State.
Stanford is also led by some very talented yet inexperienced underclassmen. Sophomore outside hitter Eric Beatty had a strong showing last game with a career-high 18 kills, one ace, one block and seven digs while hitting .364. Another key player is freshman outside hitter Jaylen Jasper, who recorded 14 kills, two aces and four digs over the Tritons. Junior setter Russell Dervay also had a career-high 45 assists and eight digs as Stanford hit a season best .339.
USC’s trio of junior outside hitters Jack Wyett, Ryan Moss and Gianluca Grasso, and freshman middle blocker Sam Lewis, led the Trojans in their last game. Wyett recorded a match-high 16 kills, eight digs and two blocks. Moss had nine kills, six digs, two blocks and an ace, while Grasso chipped in with six kills, five digs and two blocks. Lewis hit .333 while accumulating 10 kills and two blocks.
With the Cardinal and Trojans trending in opposite directions, it is crucial that USC sets the tone early and maintains a good offensive rhythm from the start of the match. In both matches last week, USC started strong, narrowly falling to Lewis by an absurd score of 42-40 and beating Loyola-Chicago 25-20 in the first set. However, the Trojans looked increasingly fatigued as the matches wore on, as the margin of defeat slowly grew each time. It will be interesting to see how head coach Jeff Nygaard adjusts his rotations to keep the energy up the entire game.