USC drops second straight five-set match to CSUN

The USC men’s volleyball team did not only have to prove they were the best team on the court last night — they had to prove they were the best team in the country.

In a back and forth thriller with the intensity of national championship game, the No. 2 Trojans fell just short of No. 1 Cal State Northridge in five sets, their second consecutive loss on the road to a top-10 opponent.

Not enough · Junior opposite hitter Murphy Troy had 19 kills. - Katelynn Whitaker | Daily Trojan

“The atmosphere was pretty crazy,” USC coach Bill Ferguson said.  “It was real loud, a little bit hostile — we got booed a lot.  But we were our own worst enemy.”

Before stumbling at No. 10 Pepperdine last week, the Trojans (6-3, 4-2) were ranked first in the country and were off to their best overall and league start since 2000. Now USC will have to regroup before Friday’s visit to UC Santa Barbara and next week’s rematch with Pepperdine.

From the first set, the Trojans and Matadors (9-1, 6-1) looked as evenly matched as their rankings predicted. Both teams earned 15 kills apiece and tallied a nearly identical hitting percentage.

But after seven lead changes, an untimely service error from Trojan junior opposite hitter Murphy Troy gave CSUN possession and a 26-25 lead. Two kills and a block from CSUN’s Mike Gaudino pushed the lead to 29-26, and a final service error from junior outside hitter Tri Bourne closed out a losing set for the Trojans.

CSUN followed momentum into the second set, sprinting out to a 13-8 lead with the help of four Trojan service errors. Junior middle blocker Austin Zahn’s five kills helped rally the Trojans to an even match at 18, but the Matadors never relinquished the lead, riding sophomore Matt Stork’s 18 assists to claim the set 30-28.

Down two sets, the Trojans answered emphatically, burying the Matadors 30-9 in the third set. Troy — who finished the night with a team high 19 kills and 13 digs — combined with Bourne, senior middle blocker Hunter Current and freshman outside hitter Riley McKibbin for 12 kills and 11 assists, and never let CSUN within six points.

USC clawed to a 30-26 lead in the fourth to force a tiebreaker, but the Trojans impassioned comeback lost steam in the fifth and final set. With a decisive run, the Matadors raced to a 14-10 lead and won the set, match and nation’s top ranking on an ace from junior Tanner Nua.

“They made a couple of great plays, and at that point I knew we were in a little bit of trouble,” Ferguson said.

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