The USC men’s volleyball team beat Pepperdine 3-1 at Galen Center Saturday night in a convincing four-set contest. The Trojans rose to 3-3 against Mountain Pacific Sports Federation opponents and 9-7 on the season.
The Trojans entered the match ranked No. 13 in the nation, while Pepperdine came in as the favorite at No. 4. That said, the Trojans proved that they were not intimidated in the slightest, taking a 10-6 lead early in the first set, a deficit from which the Waves were never able to recover. USC secured the first set by a healthy margin of 25-19.
At first, the second set appeared to mirror the first. The Trojans got out to an early 11-5 lead and held onto that margin as each team traded point for point. USC was up 18-13 when the Waves began to fight their way back, however, eventually tying the Trojans at 22 points apiece. After some more back-and-forth action, Pepperdine was able to capture the second set 27-25.
The third set began differently. USC was able to open with a 4-1 lead because of sophomore setter Chris Hall’s serves, but Pepperdine quickly clawed its way back as the teams went blow-for-blow throughout the remainder of the set. The Trojans were ultimately able to take the set with a 3-point run that was capped off by an impressive kill from senior co-captain Jack Wyett.
The final set was arguably USC’s most convincing performance of the four. The teams were tied 16-16 when the Trojans began to make their move. USC took the next 2 points, conceded 1 and then took the next 4, finding themselves up 22-17. The Waves were unable to overcome that deficit and the Trojans emerged victorious with a score of 25-20.
USC was led by senior co-captains Wyett and outside hitter Ryan Moss, who touted 16 kills and 21 kills, respectively. Moss also contributed an impressive 12 digs in the match. Fellow senior outside hitter Gianluca Grasso added 15 kills and 9 digs of his own.
Senior libero Matt Douglass earned 17 digs, a match high for either team, while sophomore setter Chris Hall set up his teammates with 42 assists and also got the crowd jumping with a highly impressive ace in the early moments of the third set.
Sophomore middle blocker Kyle Gear provided an astounding six blocks against the Waves high-powered offense, helping to hold them to just .256 hitting. As Hall mentioned after the match, the Trojans clearly did their homework in preparation for the Waves.
“The [coaching staff] did a really good job of scouting for the match,” Hall said. “One of their big [outside hitters], Dave Wieczork… hits a lot of cross court, but we made that adjustment early … I think shutting him down was really good.”
When asked about how the team has performed in matches against highly-ranked programs, Hall took a mindful approach about how best to move forward.
“We just need to go out and value every point,” he said. “Sometimes we get caught up in the result, but we just need to focus on the process.”
The sophomore setter also spoke about the feeling of coming away with a MPSF victory.
“Obviously, tonight was a really good win,” Hall said. “We had a close one against Concordia a few nights ago, but … we know that we’re a really good team and we can compete at the top of the MPSF.”
In regard to the upcoming non-conference matches, Hall made it clear the team shouldn’t be comfortable with its victory over Pepperdine.
“We had a big win against the No. 4 team in the country … but we could easily lose to Penn State or Ohio State if we don’t bring our [A-game], so we just need to go into this practice week with a good mindset and keep working hard [and] scouting well,” he said.
Although it appears the team won’t be taking much time to celebrate its win, Saturday’s match was certainly a major victory for the Trojans who will look to add to their momentum this weekend.
The team will take part in the Pac-12/Big Ten Challenge this week. The Trojans will host Penn State Friday and Ohio State Saturday at Galen Center.