The No. 11 Trojans defeated top-ranked defending national champion Long Beach State in a major upset Saturday night in front of a packed crowd at USC’s North Gym.
The Trojans (13-8) became the first team to take down the 49ers (19-1) this season, breaking their 23-game winning streak. The Trojans fell to Long Beach 3-1 earlier this season in January, and until last week when the 49ers played UC Santa Barbara, the Trojans had been the only team to take a set off Long Beach.
Although this is a major victory for the Trojans, there is still plenty more that they want to accomplish this season.
“Playing in this gym definitely gives us an advantage, but at the end of the day, it’s not a conference match,” redshirt senior outside hitter Jack Wyett said. “So in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t give us that much of an advantage. We’re definitely not done with what we’re trying to complete. But if all things finish in the way that we expect them to, we’ll likely see them in the NCAA finals.”
Wyett and senior outside hitters Ryan Moss and Gianluca Grasso led the team offensively. Moss had a match-best 14 kills hitting .565; Wyett had 13 kills at .579; and Grasso added 10 kills at .500.
Sophomore middle blocker Sam Lewis had four blocks and senior libero Matt Douglas had 9 digs, both match highs, to anchor the defense.
The Trojans led the entirety of the first set with Long Beach trailing closely behind. USC slowly started to pull ahead for a 25-21 set win.
The Trojans started the second set with the same momentum as the first. Although the 49ers scored the first point, USC quickly recovered to put up a 7-2 lead after scoring 4 consecutive points. The Trojans took it away to win the second set 25-21.
USC’s energy only elevated going into the third set. Although it was a tight race at first, the Trojans quickly picked up a 9-4 lead and never looked back. The 49ers closed in on the Trojans’ lead multiple times, but never quite managed to catch up. USC won the match with a 25-17 set finish, leaving Long Beach with its lowest-scoring 25-point set since scoring 15 in a 3-0 loss to Penn State in 2015.
Leading the 49ers, senior pin hitter Kyle Ensing had nine kills and senior outside hitter TJ DeFalco added eight kills, five digs and 2 aces..
Wyett said serving and passing were the Trojans’ biggest strengths throughout the match.
“Usually that’s how we’re taken out of games, and I thought we were really disciplined with that throughout the game and that’s what won the match,” Wyett said.
The Trojans remain at home this week to take on No. 9 Stanford and No. 8 Brigham Young in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation conference play. USC will face Stanford Friday at 7 p.m. before taking on BYU Saturday at 7 p.m. back on their usual home court at the Galen Center.