The road woes continued for the Trojans men’s volleyball team who have lost five of its last seven matches away from the Galen Center after falling to top-ranked Stanford Saturday night.
With the season winding down, the Trojans (14-10, 11-9) appeared to have finally found some momentum. They beat Pacific on the road on Friday, matching their longest winning streak of the season at four games and clinching a berth in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament.
However, the Cardinal (18-5, 15-5) handily swept the No. 6 Trojans (30-23, 30-24, 30-15).
In the first two sets against Stanford, USC had some success, tying the first set at nine and leading the second set 14-7 before the Cardinal regained control.
“There were a few questionable calls that I think we reacted to a little bit too much,” USC coach Bill Ferguson said. “But I think the games were a lot closer than the scores indicated, except for the third set. In the first two sets, I think we did some things really well.”
Sophomore outside hitter Tony Ciarelli had a team-high 14 kills and four blocks against Stanford. Junior setter Riley McKibbin added nine digs.
On Friday, against Pacific (8-20, 0-20), the Trojans overcame a two-set deficit (24-30, 24-30, 30-25, 30-20, 15-12) by successfully tinkering with their lineup.
In the third set, Ferguson inserted sophomore Steven Shandrick for junior Austin Zahn at middle blocker and senior Tyler Stevens for junior Sean Dennis at outside hitter. Shandrick proceeded to record eight blocks, and Stevens had a career-high seven digs.
“Pacific was hot the first two sets,” Ferguson said. “We got a little out of rhythm the first two sets. In the third, fourth and fifth sets, we were in really good control. I was happy with the way we played.”
Ciarelli had 14 kills against Pacific to complement his career-high nine blocks. Senior middle blocker Hunter Current hit a match-high .529, recorded 12 kills and a career-best 10 blocks.
Junior opposite hitter Murphy Troy continued the success he has had since coach Ferguson tweaked the offense earlier this season. After being named the MPSF Co-Player of the Week, Troy had 12 digs and a career-high 34 kills against Pacific. He also had six digs and nine kills against Stanford.
The Trojans have two more games and two weeks of practices to get ready for the MPSF tournament.
“We are looking to improve in everything,” Ferguson said. “We are working on some new concepts with blocking and defense. Offensively, our numbers have skyrocketed from where they were a month ago, so if we can continue that improvement, I think that will be a really good thing for us.”
The Trojans conclude their regular season with road matches against No. 14 UCSD on Friday and No. 8 Long Beach State on Saturday before participating in the MPSF tournament.