The No. 1 ranked USC men’s volleyball team beat the No. 2 UC Irvine Anteaters for its 15th straight victory to the tune of a 25-22, 25-19, 27-29, 25-18 Senior Night victory in front of 1500 fans at the Galen Center.
Senior outside hitter and co-captain Tony Ciarelli led the way with 20 kills at a .390 clip on Saturday to allow the Trojans (20-4, 16-4) to control their destiny for the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation title.
For the team that starts two freshmen and has not settled on permanent top-seven starters, the Trojans went through a steep learning curve en route to their final bid.
Ciarelli was one of four seniors honored along with Steven Shandrick, Steven Mochalski and Jeff Carlson.
The Trojans avenged their 3-1 loss against the Anteaters (20-5, 16-5) from late January, when the Anteaters were the first-ranked team in the country.
The Trojans have only lost one match since then and have quickly risen to the nation’s top spot.
The Trojans continued their rotation of Maddison McKibbin, Tanner Jansen and Mochalski between one outside hitter and one opposite spot with great success. The trio combined for 20 kills while splitting time throughout the match.
Senior outside hitter Mochalski and middle blocker Shandrick added eight and five kills respectively. Shandrick also added 5 blocks.
The vaunted Anteater’s serving trio of Dan McDonnell, Carson Clark and Jeremy Dejno contributed six aces on the night. The Trojans, however, added emphasis on high-ball hitting to handle tough serves, which paid off as the Trojans finished with an overall hitting percentage of .287 to the Anteaters’ .206.
The Trojans outblocked the Anteaters 14.0-5.5 and held the Anteaters to a pedestrian .097 hitting percentage in the final set.
Freshman middle blocker Robert Feathers, the nation’s leading blocker, finished with a total of 7 blocks.
The Trojans also served up four aces of their own to keep the Anteaters off-balance.
If the Trojans win their last two matches against Long Beach State and Cal State Northridge, they will win the MPSF title outright. The Trojans swept both teams earlier in the season.