The No. 6 USC Trojans men’s volleyball team is gearing up to play No. 10 Pepperdine at home tonight after a stunning loss at the hands of UCLA last week at the Galen Center.
“Any time you lose a match it’s no good. And losing to a rival is less good,” USC coach Bill Ferguson said. “Even though I’ve seen us go 9-4 against them so far, maybe it’s a good thing. Maybe it’s a wake-up call. We’ve had really good practices with a motivated group of guys.”
Whether it be a result of film studies, on-court drills or weights, the Trojans have showed a refreshed intensity in their practices this week.
“We’re a young team, and it seems like we didn’t realize how good our competition would be,” said senior outside hitter and co-captain Tony Ciarelli. “We realized we need to work harder.”
Pepperdine lost key starters from last year’s squad and is looking to re-establish itself with young, top-tier talent in a manner similar to USC.
Key to the Waves’ attack are junior opposite Maurice Torres and freshman outside hitter Josh Taylor. They are third and eighth in kills in the conference, respectively, with 4.02 and 3.53 per set.
“They’re similar to us in makeup with a couple of upperclassmen and some young guys with a lot of promise,” Ferguson said. “But they’re much bigger physically than us. They focus on hitting, serving and blocking. We have to limit what they do offensively to be successful.”
The clash of styles plays well for the Trojans as their defense has been consistently strong as a unit. They are ranked first in the conference with 9.13 digs per set and second in the conference in opponent hitting percentage (.214).
“We have to control the ball and serve tough,” Ferguson said. “We have to grind out our points.”
Both teams have played UC Santa Barbara this year with vastly different results. Pepperdine lost 3-1 while the Trojans swept the Gauchos.
“Those couple of losses really humbled us,” said senior middle blocker and co-captain Steven Shandrick. “But any loss is motivation. We can’t get complacent.”