On Tuesday night, the No. 7 Trojans fell to No. 15 Penn State (7-9, 4-0 EIVA) in three straight sets (18-25, 19-25, 21-25). The upset over USC was Penn State’s first win over a ranked opponent in 2015.
With the non-conference loss, the Trojans move to a season record of 10-6. They’re currently in fifth place in the Mounain Pacific Sports Federation with a 9-5 conference record.
Tonight the Trojans take on Lindenwood (5-6, 2-5 MIVA). This will be the first time the Trojans face off against the Lions.
Head coach Bill Ferguson looks optimistically to tonight’s match, considering the Trojans’ poor play against Penn State, which Ferguson was not pleased with.
“[This match] was not anywhere close to an effort that is representative of this team,” Ferguson said.
Right from the start, it looked like it would be a tough match for the Trojans. Penn State jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first set and ran away with it to finish off the set 25-18. Penn State held the lead the entire set.
Four early service errors by USC aided Penn State’s first set dominance.
Much of the same played out again in the second set. The Nittany Lions found themselves in a groove, and USC began to wander off track — the Nittany Lions caught fire while the Trojans were more or less on ice. The momentum translated well into the third set for Penn State, and the Nittany Lions took the set and the match.
“A hallmark of our team has been our ability to compete and come back,” Ferguson said. “I don’t know where that was tonight.”
The biggest drop-off for the Trojans was their lack of offensive effectiveness: USC hit .198 to Penn State’s .422, an opponent-high hitting percentage. For a team that was once unstoppable at the net, this is a stat that really hurts.
The Nittany Lions’ dominant offense came from senior Aaron Russell, who had 20 kills and only two hitting errors for a .720 hitting percentage.
The Trojans had no one who could snuff Russell’s hot streak. Ferguson set up the rotation to have senior setter Micah Christenson block Russell at the net.
“It was surprising that Micah couldn’t stop Russell,” Ferguson said. “That was the matchup I wanted.”
On offense for the Trojans, junior opposite hitter Josh Kirchner led the team with 11 kills. Junior outside hitter Alex Slaught recorded a second-best seven kills. Ferguson attributes the lack of offensive firepower to the team’s inability to find its rhythm.
“Our offense was just out of whack all night,” Ferguson said.
For Ferguson, the best part about the match against Lindenwood is that the team knows nothing about the Lions.
“It’s going to force us to focus on us,” Ferguson said. “Exactly what the doctor ordered.”
USC will try to get back in the win column against the Lions tonight at 7 p.m. at the Galen Center.