Trojans ready for role of playoff spoilers
It’s safe to say that the 2013 season has been nothing short of disappointing for the USC men’s volleyball team. A year after a 26-7 run that saw them fall just one victory short of an NCAA title, the team, hampered by inexperience and inconsistency, has limped to a 6-16 record. But as the regular season winds down, the Trojans still have a chance to end the campaign on a positive note.
On the heels of a 3-0 home sweep of Cal State Northridge Saturday on Senior Night (25-23, 25-22, 25-19), USC will conclude its season on the road this week with matches against UC Santa Barbara on Wednesday and UCLA on Friday.
While the final two contests appear trivial for a club simply playing out the string of a lost season, USC head coach Bill Ferguson emphasized the importance of the games as measures of where the team stands heading into next season.
“We have two games to improve as a team, and I know it sounds funny since we have only these two matches left and no playoffs,” Ferguson said, “but we talked to the team about using these two games to wrap our minds around a postseason-like situation, where we’re playing two matches in three games.”
With graduating seniors Chris Trefzger and J.B. Green making rare starts, USC recorded its third sweep of the season Saturday. Trefzger and Green played a memorable final home game as Trefzger notched 37 assists and seven digs as setter while Green played in the libero position and notched two digs. Sophomore outside hitter Cristian Rivera was strong once again with 18 kills while hitting .500, and fellow sophomore Joey Booth recorded 13 kills to go along with six digs.
“I think the team played as one [unit] the best we’ve had all year,” Ferguson said. “A big part of that was the fact that we started Trefzger and Green, who normally don’t start much. Having those guys start really galvanized the team, because they are examples of guys who do the right thing every day, and the other guys on the team really respect them. That allowed them to answer the call tonight.”
In a tightly contested match that didn’t leave much room for error, the Trojans’ hitting put them on top, as they hit at a .418 over CSUN’s .256.
“Our pin attackers played great matches,” Ferguson said. “Booth, Rivera and [freshman] Alex Slaught played great matches, and I think they did a better job of paying attention to video this week. We had Rivera be more aggressive, leading to key points, and [junior] Tanner Jansen had a great game on the right side. We knew that we were going to have a good matchup, so I think the guys were prepared to do well.”
As the season winds down, Ferguson avoided evaluating the team’s performance this year, noting that even the final two matches, as unimportant as they might seem, can retain value for the squad heading into the offseason.
“We have two games in three nights,” Ferguson said. “The semis and the finals are a day apart, and the Final Four is a day apart, so this is like a practice run to prepare us for the next season.”