Trojans to take on UC Irvine in MPSF semis

first_imgThe No. 8 USC men’s volleyball team (19-8, 15-7 MPSF) will take on No. 2 UC Irvine (26-4, 19-3 MPSF) tonight in a MPSF tournament semifinal match at Irvine.Earlier this year, the Trojans upset the Anteaters in a grueling five-set match (28-30, 25-17,    21-25, 25-23, 15-13) that propelled them back into the national spotlight.Against the Anteaters, the Trojans had a stellar offensive performance. Junior opposite hitter Josh Kirchner produced a team-high 15 kills along with three blocks and two aces. Right behind him was redshirt sophomore Christopher Orenic, who had 14 kills.Senior middle blocker Robert Feathers had an especially great match, with a match-best .647 hitting percentage, 12 kills and a team-high six blocks.With another successful offensive outing, the Trojans should be able to top the Anteaters in Irvine.The Trojans will be looking to carry the momentum from their intense five-set home victory over No. 6 BYU (25-17, 20-25, 25-22, 23-25, 15-13) last week.Junior outside hitter Alex Slaught stood out against BYU, especially in the fifth set.Responsible for the winning kill, Slaught recorded a team-high 21 kills and was named USC Credit Union’s Student Athlete of the Week for his performance.While Slaught stood out, everyone had a match to be proud of, said  head coach Bill Ferguson.“A lot of guys were challenged in subsets of their game,” Ferguson said. “They were able to not let that affect their other parts. That’s really good mental toughness.”Heading down to Irvine, the Trojans will have to prepare for a couple different components of a very talented Anteater team.As usual, USC will need to focus on their serving and passing game. Great serving is one of the most crucial aspects to the sport and has the ability to throw off the opponent’s offense. Poor passing also has the capacity to limit a team’s offensive potential.UCI’s balanced serve and pass game keeps its opponents on their toes.One of the biggest factors in UCI’s favor is All-American libero Michael Brinkley.Ferguson referred to him as arguably the “best in the country” at his position.“He’ll make some unbelievable digs on balls that we hit that will normally go down,” Ferguson said. “We’ll just have to weather that storm.”Though Brinkley’s digging will bring an added level of difficulty, it’s nothing the Trojans haven’t faced before.To counteract UCI’s defensive strengths, USC will look to senior setter Micah Christenson to orchestrate a strong offensive performance.This year’s co-winner of the Lloyd Ball Award as the nation’s top collegiate setter, Christenson is a 2014 All-American and a setter for the U.S. National Team that won the FIVB World League gold medal last year.“When you get down to brass tacks, Micah is the best setter in our region of the world,” Ferguson said.With so many accolades, it’s obvious that USC’s offense is in the right hands with Christenson.Ferguson is not overly concerned about facing the Anteaters on the road. When the two teams met earlier this season in Irvine, there was a significant number of Trojan fans in the crowd.“It’s in the heart of Trojan mation,” Ferguson said. “It’s a place where we feel comfortable playing.”Overall, the team seems confident and motivated to dominate the Anteaters.The Trojans will face UCI at 7:30 p.m. at the Bren Center in Irvine.last_img

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