LA JOLLA, Calif. - The USC men's volleyball team showed why it's ranked No. 1 in the country Friday as it swept No. 15 UC San Diego by scores of 25-12, 25-23 and 25-17 at RIMAC Arena. The Tritons put up a battle in the second set but couldn't overcome a solid all-around effort by the Trojans.
UCSD fell to 2-4 overall and 1-2 in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) play, while USC remained perfect on the young season at 4-0 overall and in the MPSF.
The Trojans were very efficient offensively, finishing the night with a .416 (43 kills, 11 errors, 77 attempts) attack percentage, including hitting well over .500 in sets one and three. The Tritons struggled, hitting .184 (35-19-87) overall and committing 11 errors from the service line. USC held a 7-4.5 advantage in blocks.
USC jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the opening set and never looked back. Murphy Troy, who totaled a match high 15 kills, had six in the set. The Trojans hit .579 to UCSD's .036.
"I really felt like we weren't ready to play at the right level in set one," said UCSD head coach Kevin Ring. "That's a great team walking into our building and I think it took us until well into the game to step up to the challenge."
The second frame was much closer and was very tight early. USC opened up a five point lead at 11-6 before UCSD rallied for four straight points to get within one at 15-16. The flurry included back-to-back service aces by middle blocker Calvin Ross and a kill by outside hitter Carl Eberts. Tony Ciarelli put down two consecutive kills for the Trojans and the Tritons just could not come from behind. A kill by freshman outside Nick Iorfino brought the score to 21-20 in favor of the Trojans, but a Steven Shandrick kill and a UCSD hitting error pretty much iced the second set victory for USC. The Trojans hit .263 and the Tritons hit .212 in the set.
"I was pleased about the fight we showed in set two," said Ring. "We talked about pushing their attacks further from the net and I think we did that. In fact, we out-blocked them in game two and took them out of their system somewhat."
The Tritons had 3.5 blocks to the Trojans' one in the second set.
The first two sets had no tie scores and no lead changes.
The final set saw USC go up 4-1 and hold a comfortable lead through much of the frame. The Trojans returned to form and ended up attacking at .550, while the Tritons had their best hitting set of the night at .308. Eberts put down six of his team high nine kills in the set while Troy and Ciarelli each had four for USC. The lone tie score in the set came at 1-1.
"Unfortunately, we couldn't ride the momentum from a good second set into game three," said Ring. "If you fall behind early like we did, that is a tough team to come back against."
UC San Diego went to a 6-2 system with senior Phil Bannan and freshman Mike Brunsting sharing the setting duties. Bannan finished with 20 assists, a team high six digs, four kills, and a block, while Brunsting had 14 helpers, two kills, two digs and a block. Iorfino collected eight kills and four digs.
Joining Troy with double digit kill totals was Ciarelli, who posted 11. Austin Zahn hit .714 with six kills and Shandrick swung at .625, also with six put-aways. Setter Riley McKibbin paced the offense with 41 assists and had a team co-high seven digs along with libero Henry Cassiday.
Up next for UCSD is a pair of non-conference matches. The Tritons play at Cal Baptist, the reigning NAIA national champion, on Saturday, Jan. 22 at 7:30 p.m. before hosting Princeton on Wednesday, Jan. 26 at 5 p.m.
Tickets for all home matches are available at RIMAC Arena beginning one hour to start time. For more ticket information, click here.
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