The foundation for USC’s men’s volleyball program was built long before Missouri native and senior outside hitter Murphy Troy began pelting the Galen Center hardwood court with explosive kills, and long before a prolific Hawaiian recruiting pipeline produced the McKibbin brothers, Tri Bourne and Henry Cassiday.Pedigree · While past players will be honored prior to tonight’s game, senior outside hitter Murphy Troy has an impressive résumé of his own. – Daily Trojan file photo Two Trojan legends, Dusty Dvorak and Celso Wallace, who played on the 1977 national championship team, will see their jerseys raised to the rafters after tonight’s match against No. 2 BYU, in the presence of Ernie Hix, who coached the team from 1974 to 1981 and is regarded as the godfather of USC’s men’s volleyball program.At risk of exaggerating comparisons, it is not unimaginable to think that some players on this year’s roster might one day join these icons. An opportunity to improve their résumés presents itself tonight, as the No. 1 USC men’s volleyball team (10-1, 10-1) puts its ranking on the line against No. 2 BYU (13-4, 9-3) at 7 p.m. in the Galen Center.“[BYU is] a physical team that runs a strong offense, with great attacking in the middle,” said Murphy Troy, who has accrued eye-popping statistics in his four years at USC. “It’s going to be a great weekend, and we’re really looking forward to the challenge of playing these guys.”The Trojans’ two most recent road wins were noteworthy for different reasons, as the games posed unique tests of mental fortitude. A game at unranked Cal State Northridge team drew few fans, and questions abounded regarding whether the Trojans would take their lowly opponent too lightly; they won in straight sets.Against No. 6 Long Beach State, the Trojans had to grind out a grueling five-set win — a stage of the match they have successfully avoided for much of the season. Undoubtedly, tonight’s game might require a fifth set, and the importance of the Trojans’ experience against Long Beach State cannot be discounted.To defeat BYU, the formula to success has not changed, as the team sees no need to adjust its game plan.“It sounds cliché, and I’ve said this most weeks, but we must pass the ball well,” said USC coach Bill Ferguson. “We must do a good job blocking when the team is out of its system in order to win the points we should.”Although opposite Robb Stowell paces the BYU offense with 226 kills at an efficient .345 clip, Ferguson identified the team’s middle blocker Futi Tavana, who has supplemented his 121 kills with an impressive 107 blocks this season, as a player of particular focus for the Trojans.“Tavana is leading the nation in blocking,” Ferguson said. “He is a big, athletic and skilled player who plays a really physical net game. He really sets the tone up front.”Senior middle blocker Austin Zahn, however, refused to mask the importance of tonight’s match to his team.“For us, this is like a mini national championship game right now,” Zahn said. “We’ve beaten [several top-ranked teams], but haven’t gotten a shot at BYU yet.”
“I think the expectation is to go to the end, to win the NCAA title,” he said. “We want to go all the way, we definitely have the potential to, but we just need to stay focused. We’ve realized it is going to be a long season and we’ve just got to take it one match at a time.” After dominating the first set, Cuckierman was able to tough out a tight second set to get a 6-0, 7-6 (2) victory. Sands closed out the day with a 6-4, 6-4 win and secured USC’s shutout of USF. The early matches saw the Trojans take on a UC Davis team that entered the day undefeated. Despite the Aggies’ previous success, the new pairing of freshman Mor Bulis and senior Jack Jaede dominated in doubles for a 6-1 victory. Junior Brandon Holt and senior Logan Smith, however, dropped their set 4-6. Freshman Jake Sands and redshirt junior Jake DeVine played the deciding set, leading the Aggies 5-2 before falling 6-7 (4) in the tiebreaker. Junior Riley Smith won both of his matches against San Francisco, contributing to the Trojans’ routine sweep of the Dons. (Emily Smith/Daily Trojan) After what could be considered a disappointing 2017-18 season where they lost in the finals of the Pac-12 tournament and the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament, the Trojans are looking to improve their game. So far, the early returns on this season look promising, but the first real test comes this weekend when USC takes on rivals Stanford and Cal. “I’m very happy with the way this season has started, [it’s] off to a very good start,” Sands said. “But we have a long ways to go and I look forward to what is to come.” After dropping the early doubles point, USC was able to buckle down and roll right through the two teams, doing so with heavily rotated lineups due to the double header. Despite the hot start, the Trojans are not letting their 5-0 record get to their heads. Redshirt senior Tanner Smith made his season debut against USF, as he paired up with Cuckierman in doubles to win 6-3. Jaede and Sands won their set 6-4. Junior Riley Smith and Bulis had the same score of 6-4 and the Trojans took the doubles point. The USC men’s tennis team’s strong start to the season continued last Friday as it dropped just one point in a double header against UC Davis and the University of San Francisco. Singles action saw Riley Smith dominate his match with a 6-0, 6-3 victory to put USC up 2-0. DeVine soon followed with a 6-2, 6-2 win of his own. After shaking off some early rust in his match, Tanner Smith clinched the fourth point for the Trojans with a 6-4, 6-4 victory. After the coaches agreed that the matches in progress all be played out, freshman Bradley Frye was the next Trojan to win with a score of 6-3, 6-3. Bulis mentioned that the team has high expectations to meet this year. Down a point going into singles, the Trojans quickly turned things around. It started with DeVine, who served up a bagel in a 6-0, 6-4 victory. Holt quickly followed suit with a pair of breadsticks in his 6-1, 6-1 victory. Jaede and Smith both piled up wins at 6-4, 6-2 and 6-0, 7-5, respectively, to give the Trojans a comeback win. Sophomore Daniel Cuckierman provided the fifth point with a 6-3, 6-3 win and Bulis clinched the sixth point with a 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 win to close out the morning matchup.