Trojans return home to take on Gauchos

The No. 4 USC men’s volleyball team is gearing up for a two-game homestand this week against UC Santa Barbara and UCLA after spending the last two weeks on the road.

Ready to go · Senior outside hitter Tony Ciarelli is a four-year starter and team captain. He and USC, however, have struggled against UCSB. - Daily Trojan file photo

“You get used to playing at Galen,” said senior middle blocker and co-captain Steven Shandrick. “You like the vibe from playing at home, and we have been getting great fan support.”

After losing to No. 2 UC Irvine last weekend, the Trojans (4-3, 3-3) returned to the gym with a fresh intensity. Even though this week will have only one full practice, the Trojans’ string of weekend doubleheaders has given them more solid practice time than they have had thus far in the season.

“This was the best Monday practice this year by far,” said coach Bill Ferguson. “The intensity level was great no matter what we were doing. And with the short week, you get the sense of being painted in a corner so you have to improve.”

UCSB (2-5, 2-1) graduated six of their seven starters from last year’s team that eliminated USC from the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Championship match as well as the NCAA Final Four. What used to be one of the most veteran teams in the conference is now one of the youngest.

“There’s no talk of a grudge match in our gym,” Ferguson said. “Both teams have moved on and we’re both on another level.”

The Gauchos are tied for last in the MPSF. Similar only in name to last year’s NCAA finalist, the match is a far cry from the heavyweight bout from last year.

“This is a must-win for us. There’s definitely a little bit of that feeling of revenge after UCSB knocked us out of the MPSF and Final Four for the older guys,” Shandrick said. “They’re beatable, and if we execute … we should win.”

First serve is 7:30 on Wednesday at the Galen Center.