The No. 2 USC men’s volleyball team beat visiting George Mason University Patriots in straight sets by scores of 25-18, 25-16 and 25-21 in front of a raucous crowd in the North Gym on Friday.
“The first set was sloppy but we picked it up,” USC coach Bill Ferguson said. “We’ve been focusing too much on the score and not the quality of play. We talked about our internal scoreboard after the first set and it showed in how focused we played.”
This was the Trojans’ first time playing in the Physical Education Building’s North Gym since 2006. It was the team’s original gym from 1970-1988 and sporadically from 1997-2006. The Trojans will play their next two matches in the North Gym.
“It’s important that we got used to the venue and got closer to our roots,” Ferguson said. “I had a mile-long email chain from a bunch of alumni after they found out we were returning to the North Gym sharing old pictures.”
The Trojans won their 11th straight match to improve to a 16-4 overall mark, 13-4 in-conference, while the Patriots fell to 7-12 overall.
The Trojans rested starters junior opposite hitter Maddison McKibbin and sophomore libero Henry Cassiday.
“We had a good level of focus and we were careful not to take them lightly,” senior middle blocker and co-captain Steven Shandrick said. “It was important that the reserves held themselves to the same high standard as the starters would, and it was good that we could beat them in three.”
Senior outside hitter and co-captain Tony Ciarelli led the charge with 13 kills and two aces. Redshirt sophomore opposite hitter Tanner Jansen followed with nine kills and three aces.
“It’s been good working on connecting with the guys better and I feel like our team chemistry has improved,” freshman setter Micah Christensen said.
The Trojans won in dominating fashion offensively, defensively and from the service line. The Trojans hit .273 and held the Patriots to a .014 clip, had 10.5 blocks to George Mason’s six and served 10 aces to Mason’s four.
“I’m pleased with the serving and our overall focus,” Ferguson said. “But we need to get [freshman middle blocker Robert] Feathers and Shandrick the ball more because they had only five and three attempts, respectively.”
Ferguson was also presented before the game with an honorary game ball to commemorate his 100th career win from the March 16 match against UC Santa Barbara.