Even though the men’s volleyball team had their winning streak snapped after losing to Long Beach State last week, the team upset three top-ranked teams in the last four games. Those upsets have gone far in establishing the Trojans’ national standing, earning the team their first ranking at No. 14 this season.
The Trojans look to add another upset to their list as they take on No. 4 Hawaii in back-to-back games on Thursday and Friday in a road matchup.
“[Hawaii is] doing everything well,” head coach Jeff Nygaard said. “They are playing good volleyball. Categorically, if you look at the stats, they are near the top in every category: blocking, serving, side out, opponent side out. They are just doing a lot at a high level, which means we have to perform at a high level in order to contend with that.”
While taking on a top team that looks to continue its 11-match winning streak is already a challenge, the Trojans will have to deal with overcoming injuries as well.
Senior outside hitter Lucas Yoder, who is currently leading the nation in kills and points, did not play in the last game due to an abdominal strain. Sophomore outside hitter Gianluca Grasso has missed four games with an ankle sprain but showed signs of recovery as he played in the final set last week.
However, it is uncertain whether either will be able to contribute on the court in these two games.
“It is a TBD kind of thing,” Nygaard said. “I mean Lucas was taken off the court for a shorter period of time, but I am hoping he is ready to go. We will see what Gianluca’s ankle looks like.”
With or without the two starters, the Trojans not only will be playing two nights in a row, but will also be facing the same team at their opponent’s home court.
However, only the first game will count as an MPSF match. The second game will serve as a friendly, but could turn into a redemption match should the Trojans lose the first bout with Hawaii.
“The positive is the second night out, there are no surprises,” Nygaard said. “You’ve already seen the game plan and it is already fresh in their head, so it is more of a few tweaks here, watch some video and reaffirm the things we want to do and go back out. It becomes a little more about heart at that point because you are going to be a little bit tired two nights in a row. ”