When the USC men’s volleyball team learned that they would need to play Saturday night’s match without its captain senior opposite Murphy Troy, the team’s depth chart received a serious test.
The undermanned No. 1 USC men’s volleyball team (8-1, 8-1), however, refused to use Troy’s absence as an excuse for diminished play, disposing of No. 15 Pacific (6-9, 2-7) in straight sets, 25-15, 25-23, 25-21.
Troy’s replacement, redshirt freshman opposite Tanner Jensen, did not know he was inserted into the starting lineup until a half hour before the game, as Troy has been battling the stomach flu since Thursday’s match against Stanford.
But Jensen performed admirably given the circumstances, hitting seven kills at an efficient .600 clip, to go along with seven digs and three blocks.
“I wasn’t that nervous,” said Jensen. “Actually, I was more excited than anything else. I’ve been practicing for awhile now and have been waiting for my chance to play. Our team’s really deep, and it’s impressive that we can miss our best player and still come out with a win.”
Junior outside hitter Tony Ciarelli and senior outside hitter Tri Bourne picked up most of the slack, doing their best Murphy Troy impersonations by combining for 25 kills.
In spite of the two veteran’s crucial contributions, USC coach Bill Ferguson made certain to commend Jensen, especially for his play in the highly-competitive third set.
“(Jensen) stepped in at the last minute and did a fantastic job,” said Ferguson. “He had two real key blocks at the end of the third set which really gave us some separation.”
At the beginning of the first set, the team’s energy was not what the home crowd was accustomed to seeing.
The Trojans got off to a sluggish start, trailing 5-2, as this new lineup struggled to communicate, especially in regards to the setting game.
At that juncture, it was fair to question how this team would recover from an emotional victory against powerhouse Stanford for a quick turnaround game.
“We came off an emotional win, in what was a big rivalry game for us, especially since a lot of us know each other,” Ciarelli said. “We weren’t as emotional [tonight] probably because we didn’t have our emotional leader in Murphy Troy. It was a different win for us, but we still swept.”
Ferguson even drew a parallel between this game and the game against Stanford in that both games tested the Trojans’ ability to rebound from a taxing previous game.
“We were a little bit crisper against Stanford,” Ferguson said. “There is no doubt about that, but I’m really proud of the way we came out tonight. It’s a testament to our team’s maturity and focus.”