Men’s volleyball sweeps through top competition

After defeating Stanford and BYU, USC has won four straight matches and eight of its last nine. (Ling Luo/Daily Trojan)

The No. 9 USC men’s volleyball team earned victories in its matches against No. 6 Stanford and No. 10 BYU this weekend. The Trojans improved to an overall record of 15-8, and their conference record rose to 6-4. USC remains undefeated in Galen Center with 10 wins on the season and has won four matches in a row. Additionally, the Trojans’ 15 regular season wins mark the most of any team under head coach Jeff Nygaard.

The Cardinal took a sizable 11-5 lead in the first set Friday, but USC was able to breach the gap, tying Stanford at 15 points apiece. After some back-and-forth action, consecutive kills from senior outside hitter Jack Wyett were enough to secure the first set for the Trojans 25-23.

But the Cardinal were eager to run up an early lead on USC again in the second set, snagging the first 3 points. The Trojans answered back by winning the next 3 points and eventually took a 16-12 lead later in the set. Stanford was unable to overcome the deficit and USC took the second set 25-20.

The third and fourth sets followed a similar pattern, as neither team was able to pull ahead of the other for the majority of the frames. However, Stanford had well-timed runs, ultimately capturing the sets 25-21 and 25-22, respectively.

In the fifth and final set, however, USC swung the momentum back in its favor. The Trojans were able to take the first 2 points and never looked back, winning 15-10.

After the match, senior outside hitter Ryan Moss said the team was able to regain its composure before the final set.

“I think we played steady the whole match … Just when it got tight in those third and fourth sets, we didn’t come through … but we had faith in the type of volleyball we were playing,” Moss said.

Wyett and fellow senior outside hitter Gianluca Grasso led the way with 18 kills each, while Moss added 15 kills of his own. Sophomore middle blocker Kyle Gear tallied four blocks, while Moss and Grasso contributed five and three blocks, respectively. Sophomore setter Chris Hall aided the Trojan cause with 47 assists, and senior libero Matt Douglas collected 11 digs.

In Saturday’s match against BYU, the Trojans ran up a sizable lead on the Cougars in the first two sets. BYU surged back with determination in both frames, yet it was unable to overcome the vast point differentials. USC captured the two sets 25-20 and 25-22, respectively.

But the third set of the match was a different story. The Cougars jumped out to an early 4-2 lead, but the Trojans fought back to bring themselves up 7-5. This back-and-forth trend continued throughout most of the set, with neither team able to pull ahead by more than 2 points. With the score tied at 19, the Trojans finally put an end to that by going on a 6-2 run, winning the set with a score of 25-21 and securing a three-set sweep.

According to Moss, the Trojans were successful in withstanding BYU’s surges in the first two sets.

“When we [went] up big and they were creeping back in we [reminded] ourselves not to be too hungry to get to that 25 and [to] just take it a point at a time,” Moss said. “I think we did a nice job of resetting and getting there tonight.”

Moss said the team had to adjust its mindset in order to take command at the end of a volatile third set.

“We just tried to keep our minds steady and focused… and we made a couple [of] plays when it mattered,” he said.

Wyett and Grasso once again led the Trojans with 11 kills apiece, while Moss added nine kills. Sophomore middle blocker Sam Lewis was instrumental in the Trojans’ defense, tallying a personal season record of seven blocks, while Wyett added another four. Hall earned 31 assists and seven digs, while Douglas chipped in eight digs of his own.

After a series of impressive victories at Galen Center, USC will look to continue its winning trend in the final two matches of the regular season against Pepperdine Thursday and UCLA Saturday.