The No. 6 USC men’s volleyball team is hosting the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics No. 7 Hope International Thursday at the Galen Center. The Trojans swept Pepperdine last week and have another week after the Hope International match to prepare for a tough road trip against Pacific and Stanford.
“We need to carry the momentum over from the Pepperdine match,” junior opposite Maddison McKibbin said. “It’s easy to play down and we need to keep playing well to build off of last game and to prepare for next week at Stanford.”
The sweep against Pepperdine vaulted the Trojans to No. 5 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. The victory spelled out a two-match swing against the similarly ranked Waves, victories that will pay off toward the end of the season.
“That’s a big deal in conference standings,” USC coach Bill Ferguson said. “The top four of the MPSF is established and both us and Pepperdine have a lot of upside. Both us and Pepperdine will be better, and the win on the front end could be big down the stretch for us.”
The Hope International match will be used to ramp up intensity in the practice gym and to build depth to prepare for the upcoming stretch of conference play.
Players without much playing experience, such as opposite hitter Joey Booth, middle blocker Chris Lischke and libero JB Green, are looking to use the extra practice time and court time to prove themselves as contributors for the tough stretch of the season. McKibbin played in his first match this season against Pepperdine, and he is looking to get back into a groove after missing the first portion of the season with an ankle injury.
“We’re looking to play a couple different guys but not a whole second unit,” Ferguson said. “With a nonconference game right before the big stretch of conference play, we have to look at a couple of different guys.”
Though Hope International does not hail from a power conference like the MPSF or the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association, good play in the match is crucial.
“We’re definitely not underestimating them, especially because they went to five [sets] with a good UC San Diego team,” Ferguson said. “We need to maintain intensity and focus in practice. Sometimes there’s an overall sense that we can exhale, but we can’t. You can never feel that way and especially not when there’s a tough stretch of the season coming up.”