USC’s No. 5 men’s volleyball team kept its home undefeated streak alive with a three-set sweep over No. 15 Grand Canyon University in its first match of the postseason Saturday. Galen Center was booked for the evening, so the contest took place in the Physical Education Building’s historic North Gym, which once served as USC’s indoor volleyball venue.
The first two sets were strong victories for USC. The Trojans put together a pair of lengthy runs late in the first set and captured it by a healthy margin, winning 25-17.
Eager to answer back, Grand Canyon jumped out to a 5-3 lead over USC early in the second set, but the Trojans quickly tied things up and surged ahead. They soon found themselves up 10-6 and continued to hold a sizable lead for the remainder of the set, ultimately winning 25-19.
With just one set standing between them and the end of their season, the Antelopes put up a valiant effort in the third and final set of the match. The teams seemed to trade point for point for the majority of the set, but the Trojans pushed ahead at the tail end and won 25-22.
The story of the night was USC’s dominant offense: The Trojans had 40 kills, compared to the Antelopes’ 27. Senior outside hitter Ryan Moss led USC with 14 kills and 4 aces, while sophomore setter Chris Hall collected 33 of the team’s 37 assists. USC only tallied four blocks as a collective unit, but it hit at a .397 clip while holding GCU to .278 hitting.
USC’s impressive performance may have been fueled in part by the atmosphere generated by the raucous crowd of supporters who had gathered for the match.
“It’s a really different environment,” senior outside hitter Jack Wyett said. “Galen Center is definitely more state of the art … but this is fun. You pack the gym and it feels like a full house … [It] brings [me] back to the high school days.”
The Trojans entered Saturday having won 10 of their last 12 matches, and their performance on Saturday exhibited the type of dominance that supporters have come to expect recently. Despite their impressive win, however, the Trojans remained humble in their victory.
“You definitely can’t underestimate a team like [GCU], especially going into the playoffs,” Wyett said. “Everyone … [gains] an extra step in confidence because [they’ve] got a lot to lose.”
With the season on the line, USC supporters certainly had plenty to cheer for throughout the match. However, they were treated to a bit of a scare in the later stages of the third set when Wyett and senior libero Matt Douglas awkwardly collided while they were going after a dig.
The action came to a halt as a team medic came out onto the floor to ensure that neither had been concussed or otherwise injured. Luckily, both were cleared and were able to help close out the match for the Trojans.
USC will need both starters to be at full health as it prepares to face UCLA at Pepperdine Thursday. The Trojans recently defeated the Bruins in five sets on Senior Night at Galen Center, but have won only one of their nine matches in road environments this season. This win-or-go-home rivalry match on neutral territory will certainly be the Trojans’ greatest challenge yet.