The USC men’s volleyball team battled against No. 11 Cal State Northridge, but the Trojans fell to the Matadors in a tough five-set match (23-25, 25-22, 22-25, 25-13, 9-15) Wednesday night at the Galen Center.
It was a battle between the two from the get-go. The Trojans (2-9, 2-7 MPSF) showed bursts of their true potential.
“How much closer can we be to being the team we know we should be?” head coach Jeff Nygaard said.
USC managed to outplay CSUN ((8-4, 3-4 MPSF) for the majority of the match. After the first set — even though they lost — the Trojans looked like their pieces were falling in the right places.
Junior outside hitter Lucas Yoder had himself a strong first set, recording six kills while hitting .500. Yoder hasn’t seen much action in the last couple of matches. The junior finished the match with 17 kills and two blocks.
“To start the match, he was the only one calling for it, so he got the set,” Nygaard said. “He started of getting a ton of kills, really in rhythm, and doing a nice job.”
Senior outside hitter Alex Slaught and freshman opposite Ryan Moss — who came off the bench — finished the match with 10 kills each. Slaught picked up two blocks and an ace, while Moss recorded four blocks.
The Trojans threw themselves a bit of a block party in the second set, out-blocking Northridge 6-0. Junior middle blocker Andy Benesh hosted that party, recording four solo blocks in a span of six plays.
By the end of the match, USC had 12.5 blocks to CSUN’s 11.0. Benesh finished the night off with 6 blocks.
“We’ve been focusing a ton on [blocking], talking about it, what we’re expecting, what we need to,” Nygaard said. “I think tonight the light bulb went on and clicked for a couple of players.”
Despite the team showing continued improvement, their play hit a lull heading into the fifth set, despite winning the fourth by 12 points.
“We’re getting better at everything, we just don’t get over the hump,” Nygaard said. “After every game we win we somehow mentally slow it down.”
Slowing their game down affected their play following their win in the second set as well. In-game consistency is something that Nygaard sees the Trojans can improve upon.
After the match, Nygaard was still in a bit of disbelief that they dropped that match that seemed theirs for the majority.
“The way we played, I can’t help but feel we gave it away,” Nygaard said.
Even though they lost, Nygaard is still optimistic about how much the team is continuing to improve. He sees the team as playing like more of a unit every day, but
“It’s more of the frustration of looking at our record and going, ‘What is happening that we have this record with the talent we have, with the capability we have?’” Nygaard said. “If we play as that team consistently, all of a sudden the second half of the season is really going well for us.”
The Trojans host No. 1 Long Beach State on Friday and No. 4 Hawaii on Monday and Tuesday.