The No. 14 men’s volleyball team hits the road this week for two conference matches against No. 9 Stanford Thursday and No. 8 Brigham Young University Saturday.
Although facing two ranked opponents heightens the stakes, senior libero Matt Douglas said the Trojans are preparing for these games as they would for any other match, focusing on scouting to ensure that they are ready to go.
“We’ve been watching a lot of tape and working out the kinks that have plagued us in the past matches … so that we’re good to go for this coming week,” he said. “We know exactly what they’re going to bring. I think the sense that we’re ready to prove ourselves, that we could beat some of these ranked teams is just that extra incentive to work that much harder.”
USC holds a 65-33 record against Stanford all-time and has dominated its last three meetings. Sophomore opposite Jaylen Jasper and senior outside hitter Jordan Ewert lead the Cardinal offense with 161 and 147 kills, respectively. Junior setter Paul Bischoff sets them up with 418 assists overall this season. Jasper is also a player to watch on the baseline with 11 aces this season. On the defensive end, Ewert and redshirt senior libero Kyle Dagostino lead with 82 and 81 digs, respectively, and sophomore middle blocker Kyler Presho has accumulated 39 blocks this season.
The Trojans lag behind in their series against BYU, trailing the all-time series 43-22 and falling in the last six matches against the Cougars. USC has not won at BYU since 1996. Sophomore opposite hitter Gabi Garcia Fernandez leads the Cougar offense with 111 kills this season. Junior setter Wil Stanley aids with 231 assists. Garcia Fernandez, freshman outside hitter Davide Gardini and Stanley lead with 38, 35 and 30 digs, respectively.
Veteran leadership has been a strong force for USC. Outside hitters redshirt junior Jack Wyett and senior Ryan Moss lead with 121 and 118 kills, respectively on the season. Anchoring the defense, Douglas — this week’s Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Defensive Player of the Week — and Moss have put up 49 and 42 digs, and Moss has hit 26 blocks this season. Senior outside hitter Gianluca Grasso is a force on the baseline with 12 service aces this season.
Douglas said that being on the road all weekend takes a toll both mentally and physically.
“Some of us older guys try to instill the younger guys with what it means to travel and keep it like a business trip in that sense and also to just enjoy the moment,” he said.
The Trojans have been living up to their team motto of “resurgence” in their 50th season, making a strong comeback from last year’s disappointing 8-20 campaign.
“In terms of underperforming in years past, especially last year, I think [resurgence] means making sure we’re focused this year and that we are winning games, not just competing, not just going through the motions and having something to prove a little bit, a little bit of a vengeance,” Douglas said.
Thursday’s game against Stanford tips off at 7 p.m. at the Maples Pavilion in Palo Alto. Saturday’s match against BYU begins at 6 p.m. at the Smith Fieldhouse in Provo, Utah.