USC splits weekend set with Hawai’i

Looking to avenge Friday’s five-set loss, the Trojans contained Hawai’i’s Jonas Umlauft and Joshua Walker on Saturday, giving the Warriors no chance at a second consecutive upset, as USC swept Hawai’i in straight sets, 25-20, 28-26, 25-22.

Bounce back · Junior outside hitter Tony Ciarelli had a match-best 17 kills Saturday night, helping the Trojans avenge Friday’s five-set loss. - Carlo Acenas | Daily Trojan

“We did a much better job blocking on Umlauft, held him to a [.237] hitting percentage,” USC coach Bill Ferguson said. “We got some stuff blocks, but mostly we slowed the ball down so we were able to dig them. We also dug some cross-court balls which forced them to hit back into the blocks and towards our center backs. “

On Friday, the results were much different as Hawai’i’s two stars, Umlauft and Walker, combined for 45 kills and singled-handedly carried the Warriors to a 22-25, 25-22, 15-25, 25-20, 15-10 upset victory.

“In the loss, we played two real good sets and three kind-of-medium sets,” Ferguson said. “We didn’t execute our game plan very well, we didn’t block well and we didn’t defend real well.”

The statistics support Ferguson’s assertion that No. 1 USC (19-2, 18-2) played well in two sets but had a pedestrian showing in the other three. For the match, USC out-hit No. 8 Hawai’i (15-12, 13-9), .383 to .338, and out-dug the Warriors, 36 to 34. In fact, USC scored the same number of points as its opponent.

Although the improved defense was largely a product of re-committing to staying in system, Ferguson singled out senior middle blocker Austin Zahn and junior middle blocker Steven Shandrick for facilitating the Trojans’ offense this weekend with stellar defensive efforts, as they registered a combined 14 blocks. On the offensive end, Zahn and Shandrick, who picked up 15 and 22 kills, respectively, in the two games.

Though USC would have liked to sweep the weekend set, many players still relished the opportunity to play in their home state.

“It was great,” Ferguson said. “There was a lot of family and friends in the stands for those guys, and they really tried to put on a show for them.”

Before the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation playoffs, USC will close out its regular season at home with games against UCLA on Thursday night and UC Santa Barbara on Saturday. Both matches start at 7 p.m.