The USC men’s volleyball team fell 1-3 to defending national champion and top-ranked Long Beach State on the road Friday.
Long Beach State received its national championship banner during a brief ceremony before the game, making for an energized crowd.
“I remember stepping out onto the court for the second set and looking around and seeing the stadium packed,” said senior outside hitter Ryan Moss. “It was a really exciting environment, and I just felt very grateful to be playing in that environment.”
The Beach dominated the Trojans 25-17 in the first set. USC, now 5-3 on the season, shifted the momentum in the second set, gaining an 11-8 lead and keeping the score tight throughout the frame, although Long Beach State ultimately prevailed 26-24.
The teams traded leads in the third set until the Trojans pulled ahead with an 18-14 lead that the Beach could not make up. The set ended 25-19, making USC the first opponent that Long Beach State has lost a set to this season. The Beach fired back in the fourth, quickly gaining a 6-1 lead that they maintained for a 25-17 finish.
“That first set we really got knocked back, we took a punch to the face there, but I was really proud of how we responded,” Moss said. “We were able to make the rest of the match competitive, we were able to take a set off them, and I think our team just did a really good job of focusing on our side of the net and doing the things we’re good at, rather than letting our opponents dictate the flow of the game or how the match was played.”
Senior outside hitter Gianluca Grasso, sophomore middle blocker Sam Lewis and Moss led the Trojan offense with nine, seven and 14 kills, respectively. Senior libero Matt Douglas led the defense with seven digs.
Senior setter Josh Tuaniga was crucial to the Beach’s win with five aces and seven digs, while senior libero Jordan Molina contributed 11 digs.
Moss credited the team’s coaching staff for the hard work and late nights they put into preparing the Trojans for any opponent.
“Our coaches have done an immense amount of work on preparation and scouting reports and getting us prepared with a solid game plan,” he said. “When we go out onto the floor we’ve done so much preparation, we’ve watched so much film that we know what every guy wants to do, we know rotation by rotation what they want to do.”
Moss added that the team hopes it will develop the ability to completely internalize the scouting report.
“We hope to get better and better as we go, but we want to get to the point where once the game starts we don’t have to worry about what they’re doing because we already know, and we can just focus on us,” he said.
Mental preparation has been key for the Trojans while facing top-ranked teams like Long Beach State and UC Irvine in the last week.
“I think nerves are so important to acknowledge, and we’ve done a lot of work in the offseason with our mental preparation,” Moss said, crediting team psychologist Dylan Firsick for preparing the team for high-pressure situations.
“If you’re anxious, if you’re excited, you know that means you’re ready to compete, and you want to play. The ups and downs, all the highs and lows and emotions just come with the game.”
The Trojans are back home this week to host Princeton on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Galen Center. They will then travel to square up against UC Irvine on Saturday at 7 p.m.