USC grabs two wins to close out season

The USC men’s volleyball team clinched the sixth seed in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament next weekend by sweeping its two games this weekend.

The Trojans squeaked by No. 14 UC San Diego 3-2 Friday and then swept No. 10 Long Beach State 3-0 Saturday to end the regular season, winning five out of its last six games.

The Trojans (16-10, 13-9 MPSF) had a relatively easy time with the 49ers (12-17, 8-14) as they were never really challenged late in any of the three sets. The Trojans won 30-25, 30-25, 30-23, and the closest Long Beach came to winning any of those sets was within two points of the Trojans at 23-21 in the second set before USC pulled away.

Junior setter Riley McKibbin spread the ball around as four players had eight kills or more. Junior opposite hitter Murphy Troy led the team with 16 en route to obtaining a .400 hitting percentage, and sophomore outside hitter Tony Ciarelli got in double digits with 11 kills.

As expected, junior outside hitter Tri Bourne sat out this weekend with a broken left thumb. The Trojans hope to have him back for the playoffs, but in the meantime, senior Tyler Stevens started in his place and had a solid contribution of eight kills, five digs and four blocks.

USC’s game against UCSD (10-19, 5-16) was a little tighter. The Trojans won, but they had to come from behind to do so en route to a 26-30, 30-21, 30-23, 26-30, 18-16 score.

The Tritons actually had three match points in the fifth set as they took a 14-11 lead. But thanks to a service error, a mishit and a kill from sophomore Tony Ciarelli, USC evened the score at 14. The Trojans saved another match point shortly after at 15-14 and then, after having one match point of their own, put the game away on a mishit by UC San Diego.

Again, four players had eight kills or higher as Troy and Ciarelli led the way with 23 each. Eight of Troy’s kills came in the crucial fifth set, including the one that saved a match point at 14-15.

The Trojans controlled the second and third sets and weren’t out of the first and fourth set until the final point was recorded. In the first set, the game was tied at 23 when UCSD went on a four-point run to put it away. Then in the fourth set, USC closed to 25-27 but a couple of kills by the Tritons and a mishit by Ciarelli saw UCSD send it into a deciding fifth set.

The Trojans will now play at Cal State Northridge, the third seed, in the MPSF tournament starting Saturday. USC lost to the Matadors 3-2 and 3-1 this season.