In serious need of a victory, the USC men’s volleyball team will look to right the ship this week with the first of a four-game homestand to continue Mountain Pacific Sports Federation action.
The Trojans square off against Cal Baptist Thursday night at the Galen Center in an attempt to end its current four-game losing streak. After a home loss to Pacific, the Trojans concluded a disappointing 0-3 road trip that featured losses to Pepperdine, Cal State Northridge and Long Beach State. The losing streak marks the team’s longest since 2008.
“We haven’t put it together all the way yet,” USC head coach Bill Ferguson said. “The theme of our last few matches is that we’ve put together some strings of great volleyball, but we really need an extended period of good, and that’s what we’ve been talking to the guys about.”
Each of the four losses has come by a 3-1 margin, with the Trojans faltering down the stretch after short periods of strong play. Against Long Beach State on Friday, USC fell behind early, dropping the first two sets and failing to put together a comeback. Though the Trojans received strong contributions from key players, such as sophomore middle blockers Ben Lam (13 kills, five blocks, .579) and Robert Feathers (10 kills and five blocks), they were out-hit .370 to .271, failing to contain the 49ers in the deciding fourth frame.
“We had some matchups offensively and I thought our game plan was good. Our middle blockers and [redshirt junior opposite] Tanner Jansen executed wonderfully,” Ferguson said. “Jansen’s hitting percentage over the last three matches is .343, and he and the middle blockers are coming through for us. I see the outside hitters having better matches, so as soon as some of those guys can be a little more consistent offensively, things will start to balance out.”
The loss to Northridge was particularly tough for the Trojans, who saw Jansen explode for a career-high 24 kills and a .475 attacking percentage. However, on the strength of 40 combined kills from opposite hitters John Baker and Brandon Lebrock, the Matadors put away the Trojans, who were again out-hit and out-performed defensively.
“We had good matchups and a good game plan that created open looks for Jansen. That was part of our match that we were pleased with as a team,” Ferguson said. “We knew what was going on defensively, but we didn’t execute as well on the blocking, which was a step back from the Pepperdine game where we had tremendous blocking. We didn’t block or dig really well, and those are things we typically do well.”
Though the losses would normally serve as a cause for concern, Ferguson stressed the need to remain positive and patient, noting in particular the youth and depth present on the roster.
“We’ve been telling the guys that they’re here for a reason,” Ferguson said. “We believe in them, we trust them and we recruited them. They’re just a bit inexperienced, and we have to walk that fine line between understanding that there’s going to be a learning curve and speeding up that curve a little bit.”
Thursday’s game against Cal Baptist is set to begin at the Galen Center at 7 p.m.