On Wednesday, the No. 15 ranked USC men’s volleyball team will make the short trip to Westwood to take on the No. 2 ranked UCLA Bruins. After recently losing to No. 7 BYU in a four-set match, they will look to continue the momentum from their previous five-set match victory against Stanford.
The Trojans will rely on the versatile hitting from junior Ryan Moss. They will look to senior outside hitter Jack Wyett and junior outside hitter Gianluca Grasso to execute on offense while also contributing strong defense. Redshirt junior Connor Inlow will continue to be an offensive force in the middle blocker position, and junior libero Matt Douglas will try to run the Trojan defense for setters redshirt senior Gert Lisha and freshman Chris Hall. All the players will look to hit tough serves to put UCLA out of system.
The Bruins have junior Christian Hessenauer, a strong right-side hitter in the opposite position. They will also depend on senior outside hitters JT Hatch and Jake Arnitz. Senior middle blocker Oliver Martin will pose a threat to the Trojans along with freshman hitter Grant Maleski. Setter Micah Ma’a will bring his consistency to the court to help UCLA find its rhythm.
The Bruins have had a successful season so far, recently sweeping Concordia in Irvine in their MPSF opener. They currently hold a 13-1 record, while the Trojans are 4-8. UCLA has hit at least .400 in their last four matches, displaying their consistency and discipline.
USC’s players will have their work cut out for them, but they are focusing on themselves and their game.
“It’s going to be a hard-fought battle,” senior opposite hitter Jon Rivera said. “They’re a top ranked team and we’re on the road. It’s gonna be difficult. We’re preparing the same as we do every week because we’re just trying to get better on our side of the net.”
After a rocky start to the season, redshirt junior Jack Wyett said he sees plenty of room for improvement.
“All we can do is control what’s on our side of the net,” Wyett said. “We have an extremely talented roster top to bottom, so once we piece that together we can beat any team.”
While the Trojans still have a substantial amount of building to do, they are working on some specifics to beat UCLA.
“We’re working on our blocking mainly,” sophomore opposite hitter Aaron Strange said. “Making sure we’re solid on our pin blocking, because when we played BYU we struggled to adjust on our opposite pin blocking. Their hitter killed us. Other than that, defensive tenacity. Getting those random balls that skimp over the net to set up a good play so we can make a good hit. And we’re working on serving. Just consistency across the board and making adjustments.”
The men’s volleyball team will have to find its confidence going into UCLA and rely on their trust in each other as teammates. They will use this game to improve and follow this away game with another game on the road as they travel to No. 12-ranked Pepperdine on Saturday.