Just like the Southeastern Conference in football and the Big East Conference in men’s basketball, the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation stands alone in men’s volleyball as the premiere division across the country. No other conference has as many national championships, ranked teams or the caliber of competition as the MPSF annually showcases.
So in a year in which the USC men’s volleyball team has held its status as the top team in the land despite a brutal schedule away from home and three tough early conference matchups, the road ahead will continue to challenge the strength and resolve of the Trojans (5-1, 3-0).
That challenge continues tonight as the Trojans welcome No. 12 UC San Diego to the Galen Center, in an inter-conference showdown that marks the seventh straight match USC will face a top 25 opponent.
The Trojans are coming off what was arguably their most impressive and efficient match of the year, after they defeated the No. 8 Long Beach State 49ers with relative ease in three sets (30-28, 31-29, 30-23). Led by junior opposite hitter Murphy Troy’s 20 kills, senior middle blocker Hunter Current’s five blocks and sophomore middle blocker Andrew Pizula’s match-high 12 digs, USC looked the part of a No. 1 team in its home opener.
No. 12 UCSD (2-4, 1-2) is also coming off its most impressive win of the early season, as the team defeated No. 7 Pepperdine in four sets on Wednesday night for its first win against the Waves in school history.
While the Tritons enter this season as one of the youngest teams in the conference, they are led by savvy veterans Frank Fritsch and Calvin Ross. Fritsch, the team’s outside hitter and senior leader, led the team with 366 kills in 2009 while Ross, the team’s top middle blocker, led the Tritons in blocks last season.
So though on paper the advantage of experience tends to lean toward the Trojans in this match, the players know that in every match in the MPSF conference they will be facing the opposing team’s best shot. And tonight’s match against the Tritons is likely to be no different.
“USC always has a target on its back. By having the reputation as a top contending program, every team wants to claim a win against the Trojans,” Current said.
First serve will be at 7 p.m. and will mark just the second time this season the road-weary Trojans will have an opportunity to play in front of their home crowd. The match also marks the last time the team will be in town for the rest of January and the beginning of February, as their upcoming matches are at Pepperdine, Cal State Northridge and Santa Barbara.