Men’s volleyball splits final home matches

This past weekend, the men’s volleyball team finished played its last home matches of the 2016 season. On Saturday night, the Trojans  (7-17, 5-15 MPSF) swept the UC San Diego Tritons (5-21, 0-20 MPSF). On Sunday night, USC was swept by No. 14 UC Irvine (9-18, 6-14 MPSF).

Junior outside hitter Lucas Yoder led the Trojans Saturday night with 11 kills while hitting .450 in the team’s 25-20, 25-17, 25-13 victory.

Junior middle blocker Andy Benesh and senior outside hitter Alex Slaught both recorded 7 kills. Benesh hit .700 and put up a team-high 4 blocks. Senior Josh Kirchner hit a team-high and personal season-high .857 after going 6-for-7 on kills with no errors.   

As a team, USC hit .414 and served up 9 aces, both season highs. The team had a strong defensive performance at the net with 9 blocks while holding UCSD to hitting only .078.

The following night against the Anteaters, the Trojans didn’t come out as strong.

“Coming into this match, it was a do-or-die situation and we came in flat,” head coach Jeff Nygaard said. “It wasn’t until middle of game three that our sense of urgency returned and we started competing.”

For Nygaard, the slow start was indicative from the service line.

“Tonight it just wasn’t there,” Nygaard said. “The energy … the urgency … the attitude [weren’t] there.” 

The Trojans finished the match with 29 kills while hitting .231 with 6 digs and 6.0 team blocks. UC Irvine finished with 44 kills while hitting .515 with 20 digs and 8.0 team blocks.

Sunday night was more than just a match for the Trojans, though. It was Senior Night to honor the team’s four seniors: libero Brooks Varni, outside hitter Alex Slaught, middle blocker Tommy Leonard and middle blocker Josh Kirchner.

“Tonight is a much larger night than just the volleyball game,” Nygaard said. “It’s a night to celebrate four amazing guys.”

Nygaard reflected on his time with the four seniors. While Nygaard was just named head coach this season, he’s been with the program to see these players grow since they were freshmen.

“I don’t ever want to think that our time is done,” Nygaard said. “You spend so much time with these guys, you spend you get to know them on a level most people don’t get to and you get to learn from them just as much as they learn from you.”

While the Trojans may have finished up playing at home this season, they’re not finished with the regular season just yet. Their final two matches are against No. 3 BYU on Friday and Saturday in Utah.

Nygaard spoke about how it’s a “learning experience” for the younger players on the team. With both BYU and Hawaii, the teams play back-to-back matches, so they’re only traveling to the other schools in intermittent years.

“It’s hostile in that it’s an extremely favorable BYU crowd,” Nygaard said. “I think it’s a great environment for volleyball. I love going there and I love competing there.”

For the younger players, Nygaard sees everything from this season as benefitting the future.

“Everything we’ve done this year is helping us transition for next year,” Nygaard said.

USC will finish up their regular season on Friday and Saturday as they head out to No. 3 BYU (21-3, 17-3 MPSF).