USC to conclude road swing in Malibu

The No. 1 USC men’s volleyball team is looking to improve to 7-0 for the first time since 1991 against the No. 11 Pepperdine Waves.

The Trojans (6-0, 6-0) appear energized and focused coming off of a weeklong break.

Youth · 6-foot-5 sophomore outside hitter Maddison McKibben has provided a lift for USC and looks to become the team’s full-time starter. - Brandon Hui | Daily Trojan

“It’s good that we got the tough road matches behind us,” said USC Volleyball Coach Bill Ferguson said. “We’re able to focus on ‘we’ instead of ‘them’ now. We can lift and train more so we get stronger as the season progresses rather than deteriorating, as well as get more guys more time on the court in practice.”

Senior opposite hitter Murphy Troy was also named AVCA Player of the Week for the second consecutive week.

“I don’t think much about it,” Troy said. “I’m surprised I got it again, especially with the rest of the guys playing so well.”

Troy needs only eight more kills to break the USC rally scoring record for career kills.

The Trojans have been impressive during the first leg of the season, dropping a total of two sets in the first six matches.

“I’m very pleased with our work ethic, attitude and maturity during this season,” Ferguson said. “And it all starts with their ‘we is greater than me’ attitude. The guys have been practicing that every day.”

The Trojans have been dominating their opponents both on offense and defense.

The Trojans are hitting at a .404 clip collectively, while opponents have only managed to kill at a .192 rate.

“We’ve been running a much faster offense this year as opposed to last year,” Troy said. “And it’s because the middles are so efficient that for us hitting on the outside, we only have to deal with one defender.”

The Trojans are also leading the conference in digs by a two-dig-per-set margin.

“We won’t wow teams with our blocking, but what’s more important is that we’re digging great,” Ferguson said. “We’re at 10-and-some-change per set and the next highest is at around eight.”

Pepperdine (3-5, 1-5), on the other hand, has been struggling as of late, losing two matches at the hands of UCLA and at UC Santa Barbara, and in five-set matches to Long Beach State, Cal State Northridge and UC Irvine.

The Waves feature four starting hitters that measure in at over 6-foot-7 including team kill leader Maurice Torres.

“Pepperdine is a big, physical team,” Ferguson said. “If they can find a way to match up with our hitters, it’ll be interesting.”

Despite Pepperdine’s size, senior outside hitter Riley McKibbin has looked to a vital advantage that the Trojans have shown as the season has progressed.

“Our unity is our biggest strength,” McKibbin said. “This is the most cohesive group I’ve played with in my career here. We’re really playing for each other out there.”