The USC men’s volleyball team ended its season Saturday night with a loss to No. 13 Concordia University.
Although the Trojans began the year ranked in the top-15 with high expectations, and a three-game win streak to start, they proceeded to lose seven games in a row, and their season has been quite the rollercoaster ever since.
The Trojans had a talented, young team, and the players’ inexperience was often evident in late sets, including their 2-3 loss to then-No. 12 Grand Canyon University back in February, where they had the chance to pull off the upset but fell in the fifth set 15-12. If the Men of Troy were able to close out late sets, USC’s overall record of 7-19 could have just as easily been closer to 14-12.
Head coach Jeff Nygaard has consistently preached the importance of focusing on internal development, building good habits, trusting the process and knowing that results and wins will follow. The Trojans had a taste of this optimistic mentality on Senior Night, when they upset crosstown rival UCLA in an exciting 3-2 victory that earned USC its first and only win over a ranked opponent on the year.
Along with that win, the team ended second in the non-conference Texaco Rainbow Warrior Classic. They were also consistently ranked for the first half of the season and swept Stanford. They also earned a top-six seed in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation playoffs.
With only four departing seniors and a number of freshmen playing key roles this season, USC has a bright future ahead, and should continue to use this season as a period of growth that will prime them for success in the coming years.
Overall, redshirt junior outside hitter Jack Wyett was a stand out player, ending the season with a total of 373 kills and an overall hitting percentage of .280. The other half of the outside hitting duo consisted of junior Gianluca Grasso, who finished with 247 kills on a .225 percentage.
Freshman middle blocker Sam Lewis became a contributor toward the end of the season, recording 142 total kills and 78 blocks throughout the season. Redshirt senior setter Gert Lisha had a consistent performance throughout the season while leading the team’s offense with 622 assists. The team often ran a 6-2 offense with freshman setter Chris Hall contributing 432 assists.
Wyett led the defensive game with 140 digs. Freshman libero Cole Paxson followed closely with 130 digs, while junior outside hitter Ryan Moss and Grasso contributed 130 and 114 digs, respectively.
Compared to their opponents throughout the season, the Men of Troy had a low average hitting percentage of .263. They committed 67 blocking errors compared to their opponents’ 47, leaving them with fewer blocks per set. They were also outkilled, 1234-1310.
The USC men’s volleyball team will say goodbye to Wyett, Lisha, opposite hitter Jon Rivera and middle blocker Connor Inlow, all of whom will graduate this May. The team still shows young promise from Lewis, Paxson and Hall, who will carry on from the tough lessons learned this season into offseason training to prepare for next spring.
All in all, it may not have been the season USC expected, but it could prove to be the season they needed in laying the foundation for the coming years to return to their winning ways.