The No. 14 USC men’s volleyball team lost a close contest in four sets to No. 7 BYU Saturday.
After a strong win over Stanford last Thursday for their fourth win of the season, USC looked to continue their momentum against the visiting Cougars. However, the task would prove to be difficult against a resilient and well-balanced BYU squad.
The Cougars boast an impressive resume this year with an 8-4 record, including wins over No. 8 Lewis, No. 5 Ohio State and No. 13 UC Santa Barbara. The dynamic opposite-outside hitting duo of freshman Gabi Garcia Fernandez and senior Brenden Sander led the Cougars in a game with very little room for error, as USC managed to stay within two points in every lost set.
Sander recorded career-highs of 23 kills and five service aces while hitting .372. Fernandez clipped .441 with 18 kills, while senior setter Leo Durkin had a season-high 54 assists along with eight digs. Senior libero Erik Sikes contributed nine digs and two assists, and senior middle blocker Price Jarman had four blocks.
For USC, the game simply slipped out of their hands. The Trojans had multiple opportunities to seal the deal and win a set, but a few service errors and clutch kills from Sander proved to be the difference.
USC posted scorelines of 21-19, 17-12, 23-23 and 25-25 before falling in all but the second set.
USC’s trio of junior outside hitters Jack Wyett, Ryan Moss and Gianluca Grasso once again led the team in the narrow defeat. Wyett had a balanced game with 12 kills, one ace and six digs. Moss had a team-high with 16 kills, along with one ace and one assist. Grasso contributed nine kills, three aces and five digs. USC was badly out-hit by BYU, which as a team clipped .372 compared to USC’s .321.
USC’s season continues to look murkier by the day, with no apparent end to the constant losing cycles that have defined their season.
With their brutal schedule, the Trojans will likely drop out of the AVCA top 15, with all eight of their losses being to ranked schools. Four of their next five games are opposing ranked teams — No. 2 UCLA, No. 11 Pepperdine, No. 10 Grand Canyon and No. 13 UC Santa Barbara.
It isn’t a stretch to say that these next few games could make or break the Trojans’ year, and perhaps even head coach Jeff Nygaard’s job. Needless to say, it is imperative that Nygaard keeps morale up and lights a fire under his unit in whatever way possible before it is too late.
The team will now travel to Westwood to take on the No. 2 UCLA Bruins in an MPSF match scheduled for Wednesday at 7 p.m.