After a big upset over No. 3 Long Beach State on Wednesday, the men’s volleyball team is on a high note. The Trojans don’t get a break, however, as they take on 5-1 Cal State Northridge at the Galen Center on Saturday.
“Northridge is a very, very physical team,” head coach Jeff Nygaard said. “They bomb the ball from the service line, they take big swings from the outside and they run a challenging offensive scheme.”
Nygaard wants to see his team set the tone early in order to pull out to a quick lead. However, he doesn’t want the team merely focusing on trying to outmuscle their opponents and forgetting their tactics.
“If we get caught up in a war of attrition of just trying to out-physical each other, that plays into their strengths,” Nygaard said. “If we’re able to break them down and we’re able to stay in the system, not just offensively but also defensively, I think we’ll give ourselves a great opportunity to have success.”
The Trojans were able to upset Long Beach State on Wednesday with contributions from multiple players. Senior outside hitter Lucas Yoder had six digs, senior middle blocker Andy Benesh had 12 kills and sophomore middle blocker Connor Inlow added a career high nine kills. Freshman outside hitter Aaron Strange also contributed with five kills and and nine digs.
“Lucas [Yoder] is playing great,” Nygaard said. “Gert [Lisha] is setting a good system. Andy’s [Benesh] taking care of the defense and taking care of his offense.”
The balanced attack kept Long Beach State on its heels, unable to win by shutting down just one part of the Trojans’ game. It also highlighted the depth of Nygaard’s team, highlighting a range of players from seasoned upperclassmen to rookies. Nygaard was especially impressed with Inlow’s career match.
“He came up big for us, which is what I think he should be doing consistently,” Nygaard said. “When it mattered the most, he was all in.”
A key factor for the Trojans is the consistency of Yoder, who has come into his final year as a Trojan with style. Yoder is already leading the team in kills, preceding his performance against Long Beach State with a career best 33-kill night against Penn State.
However, a single player has yet to be able to cement a game for the Trojans on his own. The Trojans fell to Penn State despite Yoder’s career night, and their performances are at their peak when statistics are spread across the roster.
If the Trojans want to remain in the win column against the Matadors, they will have to continue this balanced attack and protect their home court against a physical team. An upset win over a highly ranked opponent is one thing, but providing consistency at home and on the road will be the next challenge for USC to tackle.
The match will take place at 7 p.m. at home in the Galen Center on Saturday.