Trojans drop tough match to Lancers

September 17, 2020

first_imgIt was already a given entering the 2013 season that youth and inexperience would be important factors contributing to the progress of the USC men’s volleyball team, especially with the losses of key players Tony Ciarelli and Steven Shandrick from the 2012 squad. Unfortunately, those factors have become even more glaring in a difficult and trying campaign for the Trojans.A week-long break following a win over Pepperdine failed to generate any momentum for the Trojans, who suffered a tough five-set loss to No. 7 Cal-Baptist Thursday night in Riverside (20-25, 25-23, 19-25, 25-23, 15-10). The setback drops USC to a disappointing 5-14 record, distancing the club even further from its 26-7 record of a year ago.“I thought we were okay passing the ball, but we didn’t do as well as we needed to serving the ball,” head coach Bill Ferguson said. “We ran into trouble there. I thought we blocked well at times, but we didn’t do it consistently enough throughout the match.”Sophomore outside hitter Cristian Rivera again paced the Trojan attack, registering 15 kills. Redshirt freshman outside hitter Austin Rysyk contributed 14 kills, while sophomore middle blocker Robert Feathers was once again strong down the middle, recording nine kills, six blocks, and a .350 attacking percentage. But the Trojans were significantly outhit (.318 to .216) and outnumbered in digs (42 to 30), a sight that is becoming increasingly familiar with each match.“I think, at times, we made some heads-up plays and followed the game plan, but at other times there were blown assignments,” Ferguson said. “There’s still a little bit of immaturity, and it’s unfortunate to have that at this point of the season.”Resilience might be one positive that Ferguson and his players take away from the loss, as USC twice overcame dropped sets to tie the game. After the Lancers pulled away to take the first set by five, the Trojans came back in the second, putting together a solid run before a couple of errors awarded them the set and a 1-1 tie. The Trojans again overcame a Lancer win to take the fourth set by two points, but faltered in the final frame, hitting just .059 en route to the loss.While the loss was disappointing, Ferguson saw the fifth set as an important source of experience for his young roster.“The main thing is that our guys are all young, and they haven’t played a lot in the past,” Ferguson said. “This gave them some practical experience. There’s really no way to simulate this in practice, so this is going to be valuable for the development of our team.”Success has come in small spurts for the Trojans this season. After a 2-1 start that saw them knock off reigning champion UC Irvine, the team mired itself in a dismal 2-12 skid before snapping a five-game losing streak with a victory against Pepperdine last Thursday.“We made some lineup changes – we put Rysyk at one of the outside positions and Rivera at opposite,” Ferguson said. “With him and [sophomore setter] Micah Christenson serving on opposite sides, we were able to field our two best servers every couple of rotations.”Serving was indeed the key to the Trojans’ upset of Pepperdine, as their 12 service aces marked their highest since notching 13 in a game against Ohio State in 2010. USC also outhit the Waves .284 to .250 and recorded 11.5 blocks.The aforementioned losses of Ciarelli and Shandrick have thrust into the spotlight a bevy of younger players, and it’s no surprise that the likes of Rivera, Rysyk, and Feathers have stepped up in the recent absence of redshirt junior opposite Tanner Jansen. As the team enters its final stretch of matches, there will be an even greater emphasis on the need to receive consistent performances from the entire lineup.“We obviously want to win out, but mainly we’d like to play a complete match where we execute our game plan and play smart volleyball,” Ferguson said. “We came close to that against Pepperdine, but we weren’t good enough tonight, so we just need an extended period of consistent, good volleyball.”The Trojans will next travel to Utah, where they will square off against BYU Saturday before returning home for two matches at the Galen Center next week.last_img

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