After a successful road trip in Northern California the Matadors (8-1, 5-1 MPSF) moved up two spots to No. 1 in the latest American Volleyball Coaches Association division (AVCA) I-II poll for the fourth time in the school history.
“It’s a great feeling when those numbers come out and you get to see that your team and all the hard effort that you have put in has paid off,” senior outside hitter Theo Edwards said.
The Matadors will not waste much time in defending their No.1 ranking, as they put their top spot on the line tonight against No. 2 USC at the Matadome.
The Trojans (6-2, 4-1 MPSF) were the preseason No. 1 by AVCA and held the spot until they lost to Pepperdine last Friday.
“They are a well rounded team, which is what makes them so good,” junior opposite hitter Tanner Nua said. “They have a high power offense… so they have a few outsides who hit a variety of shots. They mix it up a lot, which gives good blocking teams trouble. So we have to be ready to on defense to dig any ball and be ready for any type of shot.”
The Trojans are led by All-American opposite hitter Murphy Troy, one of six returning starters from last season’s team that made it to the national championships. Troy has pounded out 129 kills an average of 4.16 per game. Sophomore outside hitter Tony Ciarelli is second in kills with 107 (3.45 kpg). In the lost against the Waves, Troy was one of five players with double figure kills with 21. Ciarelli and junior outside hitter Tri Bourne were second with 18 kills.
“We are not too worry about them,” senior libero Ali’i Keohohou said. “We just want to play our game and if we play our game we know we can beat them.”
The Matadors will need big games from three of their major players in order come out victorious Nua, Edwards and senior middle blocker Jacek Ratacjzak. The three combined for 58 kills in their win at then-No. 2 Stanford. A key stat for the Matadors is the fact that Edwards has led the team in kills in all eight victories this season.
USC is the third team in the last three weeks that the Matadors have face in the top five defeating then-No. 4 UC Irvine and then-No. 2 Stanford.
The winner of tonight’s match will have sole possession of first place in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation conference and will have the upper hand in hosting the MPSF tournament in April.
The Matadors swept the series against the Trojans last season as USC was only able to win one game in the two matches.