Standout players lead men’s volleyball hot start

A USC Volleyball player jumping mid-air about to spike the ball.
Sophomore opposite hitter Simon Gallas had a season-high 30 kills against Penn State Jan. 21. On the season, he’s registered a total of 183 kills. (Blake Pak | Daily Trojan)

Sitting at 10-2 on the season, men’s volleyball is off to a strong start in its 2022 campaign. The Trojans currently rank No. 5 in the country and are in a prime position to earn an NCAA Tournament bid. After a two-week hiatus, USC is back in action Wednesday night when they visit No. 7 Pepperdine in the first of a two-match series. 

With the Trojans around halfway through their season, here’s a look at four of USC’s biggest contributors thus far.

Graduate student libero Cole Paxson

Graduate student libero Cole Paxson slots into the USC lineup as an important defensive piece. 2022 marks his fourth year starting as libero for the Trojans, playing a key role as a veteran on the team. 

Paxson currently leads the team with 99 digs on the season, holding down the defense. Additionally, his 23 assists are good for second-best on the team. His two-way play will be instrumental moving forward for the Trojans.

Graduate student opposite hitter/outside hitter/setter Sam Kobrine

After transferring from UCLA after the 2021 season, graduate student opposite hitter Sam Kobrine has been like a Swiss Army knife for the Trojans this season, doing a bit of everything. He is currently second on the team in both kills with 142 and service aces with 14. Kobrine’s 13 assists are also good for third among USC players, while his 50 digs and 13 blocks both rank fifth among this year’s Trojans.

Kobrine is just one of two USC players to rank in the top five among the team in all five major statistical categories. The Trojans will need his versatility if they want to continue their strong run down the stretch.

Redshirt sophomore opposite hitter 

Simon Gallas

After opting out of the 2021 season, redshirt sophomore opposite hitter Gallas has returned in full force for the Trojans in 2022. He currently leads the team in both kills, with 183, and service aces, with 17.

In addition to his offensive attack, Gallas has been a key for USC on defense as well. Through the first 12 matches of the season, Gallas has 61 digs and 27 blocks, both good for third-most on the team.

Along with Kobrine, Gallas is the only other Trojans to rank in the top five among the team in all five major statistics. Consistent play across the board has characterized Gallas’ 2022 campaign.

Redshirt senior setter Chris Hall

Any time that a player is leading his team in a major statistic, they must be doing something right. When a player has more than 20 times as many assists as the player with the next-most on the team, they must be doing a lot of things right.

That has been exactly the case with redshirt senior setter Chris Hall this season. The fifth-year starter has racked up an incredible 478 assists through the first 12 matches of the 2022 season, compared to the second-most on the team at 23.

Hall’s production at the setter position has been vital towards the Trojans’ success this season. If USC is to make a push toward the program’s fifth NCAA-recognized National Championship, Hall will need to continue to lead the way.