The Trojans headed to the Bay Area over the weekend looking to end doubts about their ability to perform well on the road and laid those questions to rest.
After defeating No. 11 University of the Pacific in four sets (25-18, 25-23, 28-30, 25-23), on Friday, the Trojan squad stunned top-ranked Stanford 21-25, 25-18, 25-27, 25-16, 15-13, in five hard-fought sets. USC improved its record to 9-4 with a 7-4 record in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play and is on a five-game winning streak.
Senior outside hitter Tony Ciarelli, a National Player of the Year frontrunner, led the Trojans with 17 kills and contributed eight digs against Pacific. He stepped up against the Cardinal with 28 kills and 11 digs.
The squad’s senior middle blocker and co-captain Steven Shandrick was crucial in both victories, with .650 and .364 hitting percentages in the two contests. Sophomore outside hitter Tanner Jansen, who had been out for two weeks with an ankle sprain, returned against Stanford and hit .556 with 12 kills and seven digs.
Freshman setter Micah Christenson continued his superb play with 61 assists and a .550 setting rate.
After hitting .172 in their first set loss, 21-25, the Trojans hit .545 in the fifth and deciding set. Even after squandering a 24-22 lead in the third set to go down 1-2, the Trojans pulled through, dominating the fourth set before Ciarelli’s final point in the fifth set completed the upset.
Shandrick had said earlier in the week that out-blocking and taking away the Cardinal’s shots was what the Trojans needed to do to top Stanford. They executed this to near perfection, racking up 15.5 blocks to Stanford’s six and holding the Cardinal to a .264 hitting percentage.
Meanwhile, the Trojans showed their ability to close in the four-set victory on Friday night, winning two very close sets while setting a positive tone for Saturday. Junior opposite hitter Maddison McKibbin had another solid game in his third game back from injury, hitting .355 with 17 kills and five digs. Junior outside hitter Steven Mochalski led the Trojans with 13 digs, and Christenson contributed 55 assists and six digs.
The Trojans have won seven of their last eight games, and improved their road record to 4-3.
The team returns home this week for two games against the University of Hawai’i on March 2 and 4, followed by a non-conference tilt at the Galen Center on March 9 versus Penn State.