Men’s volleyball beats UCLA in five sets

first_imgAvenging two losses from earlier in the season, the men’s volleyball had arguably one of its best weekends of the season, taking five-set wins from conference rivals UC Santa Barbara and UCLA at the Galen Center.The wins not only solidified the team’s spot in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation conference standings, but coach Bill Ferguson said it also will really increase the confidence level of the team going into the final stretch of the season. Though the two five-set matches did add some extra wear and tear to the team already late in the season, Ferguson said it was great to nonetheless come out with the wins.“We got a lot of volleyball in this week,” he said. “It was a huge, huge weekend for us in the big picture.”The No. 9 Trojans (14-7, 12-6 MPSF) have clinched a spot in the MPSF tournament. They currently sit in fourth place in the conference standings and are guaranteed to finish in at least eighth place at the end of the season with only four conference games remaining on the schedule. The top eight teams in the standings out of the 12-team conference are invited to the conference tournament. The winner of the MPSF tournament earns an automatic qualifier to the NCAA tournament.On Friday, the Trojans were on the brink of losing in straight sets to No. 7 UC Santa Barbara (14-8, 10-8) for the second time this season. On Feb. 18, when the Trojans went to visit Santa Barbara, the Gauchos won 25-19, 25-17, 25-22. After the first two sets on Friday, the Trojans found themselves in need of winning three straight to pull off the victory. The Trojans did just that, avoiding a season sweep by the Gauchos, and won by a final score of 23-25, 24-26, 25-20, 25-20, 16-14.Senior opposite Cristian Rivera led the way for the Trojans, recording 20 kills and 12 digs. Sophomore middle blocker Andy Benesh added 16 kills, freshman outside hitter Larry Tuileta had 13, senior middle blocker Robert Feathers had 10 and junior outside hitter Alex Slaught contributed another 10 from the bench. Senior setter Micah Christenson led the team with 16 digs, junior libero Brooks Varni had 15 and Slaught had 11. Feathers also had three service aces, with Slaught adding two aces and Rivera notching one.The Trojans outhit the Gauchos with a hitting percentage of .247 to .223, recorded six aces to the Gauchos’ two and had 71 digs to the Gauchos’ 63.The Trojans had to quickly recover after the five-set marathon as they faced another team that had defeated them earlier this season the following day. On Feb. 22, UCLA defeated the Trojans 25-15, 25-23, 22-25, 25-22 at UCLA, though notably, USC was playing without Christenson that day. The Trojans were able to come out with the back-and-forth 19-25, 25-22, 14-25, 25-22, 15-11 win.Playing in front of an estimated crowd of 2,000 fans at the Galen Center, Varni said it was among the best atmospheres for a home game in his career.“It’s definitely up there,” he said after the game. “I think it’s a big weekend for us.”Tuileta and Benesh led the way offensively for the Trojans, both recording 13 kills. Redshirt sophomore outside hitter Christopher Orenic and junior opposite Josh Kirchner both added nine kills. Christenson led the team with 19 digs, with Varni and Tuileta contributing 12. Christenson and Kirchner had the Trojans’ only two service aces.UCLA outhit the Trojans, with the Bruins hitting .272 to USC’s .250. UCLA also had nine service aces to USC’s two and 15.5 team blocks to USC’s 8. But the Trojans had 55 digs to UCLA’s 49, which proved to be the edge the Trojans needed to get the win.Ferguson said the middle blockers on the team—Benesh, Feathers and junior Tommy Leonard — were all hitting particularly well. Feathers was the most efficient with a .750 hitting percentage, Benesh hit .600 on the night and Leonard hit .333 with four kills on the night. Ferguson said the difference between the sets won and lost was the ability to pass the ball towards the middle and set up the middle blockers.“Tommy, Robert and Andy had fantastic numbers, we just weren’t passing the ball well enough to get them the ball, and that’s credit to UCLA’s serving,” he said. “[But] I thought we picked up the passing.”The Trojans next match is this Thursday, April 2, at Pepperdine at 7 p.m.last_img

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