How sweep it is for No. 13 men’s volleyball
Chants of “Beat the Traffic! Back to Irvine!” echoed throughout Galen Center Saturday as the USC men’s volleyball team finished off a 3-0 win over Concordia University Irvine, its second win against the Golden Eagles last week following a 3-2 win Thursday night in Irvine.
The consecutive victories marked the first time the Trojans won back-to-back games since late January, and were a welcome sight for a team that had been getting beat up in conference play.
“[Concordia is] a dangerous team,” Head Coach Jeff Nygaard said. “They’ve taken down some giants this year. I’m glad we got out of there with two wins.”
Prior to the games against the Golden Eagles, the Trojans were 1-9 against MPSF opponents and had lost eight straight matches.
Sensing a need to shake things up, Nygaard made a change to the starting lineup ahead of the Trojans’ first game against the Golden Eagles. He started redshirt sophomore outside hitter Jackson Reed for the first time all season and moved graduate outside hitter Kevin Kobrine to the opposite hitter position.
The move paid immediate dividends, as the Trojans jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the Thursday night match in Irvine. They were seemingly poised to walk away with a quick victory.
However, the growing pains of adjusting to a new lineup quickly became apparent, as the Trojans began to falter and CUI stormed back into the match, winning sets three and four to knot the score at 2-2.
“We were playing with a completely different lineup,” Kobrine said. “First time [with] me playing opposite and Jackson Reed playing on the outside. [We were] just getting used to new things.”
Fortunately, the Trojans pulled it together and won the fifth set 15-12 to give them a 3-2 win in the match, breaking their losing streak and giving them only their second MPSF win.
Following the success with the new lineup, Nygaard decided to roll with it once again in the Saturday night matchup. Not only did the Trojans win once again, but they dominated, showing just how dangerous this new lineup could be.
The Trojans raced out to a 25-22 first set victory, leading for the entirety of the set. Kobrine started out hot with seven kills in the first frame without a single error.
Kobrine, who played opposite his whole volleyball career before transferring to USC this past season, has seen immediate success in switching back to his old position.
The second set was a defensive masterclass, as the Trojans held CUI to .071 hitting. Three blocks and four service aces aided the Trojans in snuffing out the Golden Eagle attack and blowing them out 25-15 in the second set to take a 2-0 lead. In the third set, it was a trademark Dillon Klein takeover as the freshman outside hitter dominated the frame with eight kills to bury the Golden Eagles 25-21 and win the match 3-0.
In the dominant victory, the Trojans showcased their new two-headed monster. With Klein and Kobrine hitting opposite of each other and both hitting well, the Trojans rained down killer swings on the Golden Eagles from all directions. Klein finished with 18 kills and hit .531 while Kobrine contributed 15 kills on .538 hitting. Remarkably, each of them also only had a single error.
The formidable dual attack helped both players hit as well as they have all season.
“It makes it so much easier,” said Klein when asked how Kobrine’s prolific hitting night helped him do the same. “When the other team doesn’t know where the ball is going, the block is sometimes nonexistent and other times not well formed. It makes things a lot better. It’s a lot of fun being out there when he’s balling out too.”
Kobrine expressed similar sentiments, and also credited the starting middle blockers, junior Kyle Paulson and senior Lucas Frassrand, for their role in helping free up the attack.
“Klein and I both having good statistical matches tonight is largely due to the middles, Kyle Paulson and Lucas Frassrand, just pulling in their middle blocker, giving us one-on-ones every time,” Kobrine said. “It made my job and Dillon’s job pretty easy.”
As a team, the Trojans hit .381 and held the Golden Eagles to .212 hitting. It was a win in which everything came together, at the best time for it to do so.
“It was really nice to see a dominant performance, it was really nice to see for senior night, it’s really nice to see that at this time of the year we’re putting together our best volleyball,” Nygaard said.
Following the victory, the Trojans honored their seniors, libero George Dyer, opposite hitter Simon Gallas, Frassrand and Kobrine, for their contributions to the program in their time at USC. It was a special moment for all the seniors.
“Galen’s a wonderful place to play. Although I’ve only played here a year, every moment in this
gym has been incredible,” Kobrine said.
The 3-0 win put a bookend on the Trojans’ home schedule and regular season schedule, but they’re not done playing volleyball yet.
The Trojans will head to Stanford for the MPSF tournament next week, where they will play the Cardinal in their first round matchup Wednesday night at 5:30pm.