After upsetting two top 10 teams last week, the men’s volleyball team looks to feed off its first back-to-back victories of 2017 and defeat No. 11 Cal State Northridge and No. 2 Long Beach State on the road this week. The newly ranked No. 14 Trojans hope to take certain elements from both wins and duplicate them to continue their winning streak.
“Well, the winning would be great to replicate,” head coach Jeff Nygaard said. “Our guys kept composure and kept challenging, which is one of the things I would love to move forward.”
USC’s youth played a role in its early-season struggles. Having a young team can be difficult when going up against teams with four or five returning starters, but it was in the last two games that younger members like sophomore middle blocker Ryan Moss and sophomore outside hitter Woody Cook started to put up big numbers. With these players continuing to improve, the Trojans will look to continue contending against top-ranked teams.
“It’s not like saying, ‘You can’t do this’ or ‘You don’t know how to do this,’” Nygaard said. “It is more of that they need to embody this and gain experience and apply these types of skills in real situations so that they just get more comfort and proficiency with them.”
For all players, the best — and most obvious — way to increase confidence is by getting a win, and the Trojans had two last week. While they are not going to face these teams over-confidently, they will go in more sure of their system and their ability to produce wins over top teams.
“It validates what we are doing,” Nygaard said. “Things that we get really good at at practice have to translate to how we perform on the court when the lights are on.”
Even with this newfound confidence, neither of these matches is going to be easy for USC. Both teams boast strength, precision and consistency. The Trojans fell in three sets to Northridge in their last meeting, and with Long Beach State, USC is looking to repeat its victory from the two teams’ last meeting and hand the 49ers their second loss in conference play.
“One of the challenges that Northridge brings is that they are a physical team,” Nygaard said. “If you allow them to get loose with their physicality, it is hard to bring them back down and control them.
“Long Beach … was a top three team last year and they are basically the same team [this year]. They know how to play together. They are a strong volleyball team. They don’t have many weaknesses.”
The Trojans will look to extend their upset-winning streak against two more favored opponents this week, with Cal State Northridge first up. First serve is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Matadome on Wednesday. Long Beach State comes next, with that match set to start at 7 p.m. on Friday at the Walter Pyramid.