Trojans to host BYU in MPSF quarterfinals

first_imgThe No. 8 USC men’s volleyball team (18-8, 15-7 MPSF) has earned home-court advantage as the fourth seed in the MPSF tournament. The Trojans will host the No. 6 BYU Cougars (17-9, 14-8 MPSF), who hold the fifth seed in the MPSF. USC has won seven of their last eight games and has an 11-3 record at home.Earlier this season, the Trojans hosted the Cougars on back-to-back nights, with the two teams splitting the matches. When they met previously, USC was ranked No. 2 and BYU was ranked No. 7. In the first game, the Trojans fought back from a two-set deficit to win the match in five. Junior outside hitter Alex Slaught led the team with a strong offensive performance and a career-high 24 kills. Freshman outside hitter Larry Tuileta had a strong showing with 15 kills off the bench.USC’s offense beat out BYU, even though the Trojans only had a .209 hitting percentage and BYU posted 20.5 blocks. In addition, USC’s serving was spectacular; the Trojans recorded 11 aces (BYU had none), and senior middle blocker Robert Feathers and Slaught each had four aces.In the second game, BYU was out for revenge. Slaught again had a spectacular night with 19 kills, but BYU managed to maintain a handle over USC and beat the Trojans in four sets.Head coach Bill Ferguson is optimistic about playing the Cougars in this weekend’s match. Ferguson pointed out that the two teams have had similar trajectories this season. Both teams started out on a dominating hot streak; USC won nine of their first 10 games (with an 8-0 start), and BYU won eight of their first 10 games.Then, both teams hit a bit of a rough patch, but now they are both “getting together when it counts.”“It’s cool as a competitor,” Ferguson stated. “It’s two teams on the rise coming to play each other.”The team is excited to have the opportunity to play at home, and it’s significantly better than the alternative — playing in Provo in front of 6,000 BYU fans. Home-court advantage is much more than just playing in front of a home crowd: it’s being able to practice on the court, being familiar with everything and even sleeping in your own bed.But it’s the playoffs, so there is definitely an added level of excitement for the team. Additionally, when BYU and USC met last year, the Cougars swept the Trojans in three straight sets. This year, the Trojans are looking to return the favor.“It’s normal to have the juices get flowing with a match like this,” Ferguson explained.For this team, being at home is a huge advantage. The Trojans have had some mental ups and downs throughout the season, so being able to have the comfortable routine of playing at home is a great boost which allows them to focus more on the match.“Anything positive motivationally or environmentally is a good thing,” Ferguson said. “That’s human nature.”The best motivating factor for the team is the fans. With the quick momentum shifts of volleyball, it is always helpful for a team to have support in the stands. This week, players have been encouraging their fans to come out to the match.“At home you get the energy of the crowd,” Ferguson said. “They’re behind you.”In front of the support of their home crowd, the Trojans will have to focus on themselves and on their mentality. One thing that the Trojans will specifically focus on is their serve-pass game. That’s what led to BYU winning the second match in the teams’ first series.“They’re the first team to have handled our serving really well,” Ferguson explained. “It’s what decided it when we played them.”The Trojans will look to piece everything together in front of a large, loud and energized crowd as they take on the Cougars at 7 p.m. on Saturday night at the Galen Center.last_img

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