Men of Troy face tough test against Matadors

The USC men’s volleyball team continues on its three game road trip Wednesday night with an important match against the No. 10 Cal State Northridge Matadors.

Despite early wins against the top two teams in the nation, UC Irvine and Stanford, the Trojans have struggled as of late, coming off consecutive losses to Pacific and Pepperdine. USC faces another tough challenger in the Matadors, who have defeated the likes of UC San Diego and UC Santa Barbara.

This season, the Trojans have attempted to adjust to a young but talented roster. In fact, USC has featured four different starting lineups in their first four road games and fans can expect this trend to continue in the foreseeable future.

“Until we get a little more consistency from our left side attackers and our outside hitters, we will continue to see different guys in there,” head coach Bill Ferguson said.

It isn’t all doom and gloom for Ferguson though, who has seen some strong play from others on the roster.

“We seem to be solid at opposite but Tanner [Jensen] has had a couple down games,” Ferguson said. “[Robert] Feathers and [Ben] Lam, for the most part, have been doing very well and Josh Kirchner has been great when he’s come in. So we feel pretty good there. It’s mainly just the outside hitting position that’s been up and down.”

With sophomore Joey Booth returning this week from a recent ankle sprain and All-American Libero Henry Cassiday soon to follow, the Trojans can be sure to expect even more changes to the lineup.

“Its always good to have an All-American come back,” Ferguson said.

Consistency has been the biggest struggle for the Trojans, as was seen throughout their game against No. 4 Pepperdine. The team hit a disappointing .208 and was out-dug by the Waves 28-22. Nevertheless, the Trojans were successful at the net and were able to out-block Pepperdine, a team known for its prowess in that department.

“We out-blocked them 16-6 and that was a phenomenal night in that category,” Ferguson said. “The issue was that we weren’t solid and sound on defense in the back row and that is something that we’ve hung our hat on year after year.”

Now USC will take the short road trip to face Cal State Northridge in one of the most lively crowd atmospheres in men’s volleyball. Led by junior outside hitter Brandon Lebrock, the Matadors enter the game hungry for a win after nearly knocking off top ranked BYU on Saturday. While Cal State has had little success in recent years against the Trojans, Ferguson is not taking them lightly.

“They’re always a really tough team at home,” Ferguson said. “It’s one of the better environments in the league to play in. They get a ton of good fan support and they’re really well coached. [Coach] Jeff Campbell does a really good job with those guys year in and year out.”

The Trojans may own a less-than-stellar 2-3 mark, but sophomore co-captain Micah Christenson knows their record does not reflect the potential of this team.

“Every team in the league is so strong this year that anybody can beat anybody, as has been evident so far,” Christenson said. “We’ve had some great wins against some very good teams and also some bad losses, but we’re getting better day by day.”

The Trojans will square off against the Matadors at Cal State Northridge tonight at 7:00 p.m. before continuing on their road trip to face Long Beach State Friday night.