Southern California went to the middle, then straight to the heart of Hawaii’s defense for a volleyball sweep last night in the Stan Sheriff Center, 25-20, 28-26, 25-22.
More significant for the Warriors are the numbers in the standings. In finishing the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation’s regular season at 13-9, the Warriors will play on the road in the opening round of the league’s postseason tournament.
The top four teams are at home for the quarterfinals, and the Warriors currently are in fifth place. UC Irvine, which is fourth with a 13-8 record with one match remaining, holds the tiebreaker over the Warriors.
The Warriors’ only hope to host was to defeat top-ranked USC last night. But the Warriors, who won in five sets Friday night, faced a more aggressive middle attack in the rematch.
USC middle hitters Steven Shandrick and Austin Zahn combined for 15 kills in 22 swings.
"We’ve been working on that for the past couple of weeks in practice, running our offense based on our middle," said Shandrick, who had had only one attack error in the two-match series. "There were open seams, and we had success. So why not keep going there?"
Shandrick and Zahn are powerful targets with range.
"You can set Steven Shandrick 20 feet off the net," USC setter Riley McKibbin said. "He stays open. He has a fast arm. He can get up there. Same thing with Austin Zahn. He touches almost 12 feet."
With Shandrick and Zahn pounding the quick sets, the Warriors were forced to devote a middle blocker as a tracker.
"Once the middle blocker goes up with our middles, you’ve got the back-row attack wide open," McKibbin said. "That was our game plan."
Indeed, 10 of the Trojans’ kills were launched from behind the 3-meter line. Five of outside hitter Tony Ciarelli’s kills were pounded off pipe sets to the middle of the back row.
"They were in system a lot," UH coach Charlie Wade said. "They had their offense working quite well. They’ve got a lot of options."
The way to counter a quick attack is with disruptive serves. But the Warriors were not able to consistently force off-the-mark passes.
"Our serves never really got going," Wade said. "They weren’t as good as they were (Friday) night."
McKibbin, meanwhile, gave USC a boost with his jump serves. The Trojans scored on seven of McKibbin’s 14 serves.
McKibbin credited a tip from assistant coach Jeff Nygaard during the serve-and-pass session yesterday afternoon.
"One little tip changed my jump serving," McKibbin said. "It’s nice to have somebody on the staff give you some good advice."
USC’s tough serves enabled its block to track UH pin hitters Jonas Umlauft and Joshua Walker. Umlauft had 15 kills, including eight in the third set, but finished with six errors.
Walker managed eight kills in 24 swings.
"You have to respect their pin hitters," Shandrick said. "But it comes down to fundamentals. We work on read blocking every single day. We don’t always get straight-down blocks, but as long as we can get two hands on (shots), get some good touches, our back row can make digs."
Wade said: "We battled and tried to hang around. Then again, they’re a very good team."
|x-UC Santa Barbara||11||9||.550||7||14-12|
|x-Long Beach St.||11||10||.524||71⁄2||13-13|
|UC San Diego||5||16||.238||131⁄2||9-19|
(tournament seedings in parethesis)
y-clinched MPSF quarterfinal home court
x-clinched MPSF quarterfinal berth
z-ineligible for postseason
Southern California def. Hawaii 25-20, 28-26, 25-22
Stanford def. UCLA, 15-18, 25-18, 25-17
?BYU def. Pepperdine, 27-25, 26-24, 25-16?
UC Irvine def. CSU Northridge, 25-22, 25-17,
Long Beach State def. UC San Diego, 17-25, 25-21, 25-17, 25-20
NO. 1 USC DEF. NO. 8 HAWAII
25-20, 28-26, 25-22
|Trojans (19-2, 18-2)|
|Warriors (15-12, 13-9)|
Key — s: games; k: kills; e: hitting errors; att: attempts; pct: hitting percentage; d: digs; bs: block solo; ba: block assists; pts: points (kills plus blocks plus aces). Service Aces — USC 6 (R. McKibbin 2, Bourne 2, Ciarelli, Zahn). Hawaii 4 (Walker 2, Dyer, Zemljak). Service errors — USC 11 (Shandrick 3, R. McKibbin 2, Troy 2, Ciarelli 2, Zahn, Carlson). Hawaii 8 (Walker 3, Hunt 2, Dye 2, Umlauft). Assists — USC 47 (R. McKibbin 43, Bourne 4), Hawaii 33 (Zemljak 25, Biscaro 4, Castello 3, Umlauft). T — 1:48. Officials — Dan Hironaka, Ernie Ho. A — 4,817.