By Cybele Zhang
No. 9 Stanford men’s volleyball (7-5, 0-1 MPSF) will return home tonight to take on No. 14 USC (7-4, 1-0 MPSF) in a game that comes on the heels of a four-game losing streak for the Cardinal, who have only won two of their last 14 sets.
The Cardinal enter the game coming off of a disappointing road trip to Los Angeles, where Stanford lost two conference games to both No. 4 UCLA (10-2, 2-0 MPSF) and No. 5 Pepperdine (8-2, 2-0 MPSF). The Cardinal are currently ranked last in the MPSF standings.
It will be interesting to see who is in the Cardinal’s starting rotation against USC. Up until the Pepperdine match, Stanford was generally constant in its starting six, but unsuccessfullly shook things up against the Waves. In particular, sophomore Jaylen Jasper, who usually plays the opposite position, was moved outside, while junior Eli Wopat came in as opposite to replace sophomore Leo Henken. Despite Wopat’s two kills, the lineup reverted midway through the second set, and Henken came back in.
Although the Cardinal’s overall performance last week was disappointing, Stephen Moye was a bright spot and should be an integral force against the Trojans. Against Pepperdine, he had five kills on hitting 0.833, a team high. He also notched a team-high five blocks, matching his season best. Moye cannot be the only attacking threat against USC, however, so look for Jasper, senior outside hitter Jordan Ewert and sophomore middle blocker Kyler Presho to rebound from lackluster performances.
Although the Trojans are nationally ranked beneath Stanford, they certainly should not be looked down upon. USC is currently third in the MPSF standings and boasts a four-set win over UC Irvine (12-2, 1-0 Big West) — who Stanford both won and lost to earlier this season.
Southern California has high-powered veteran outside hitters senior Gianluca Grasso, senior Ryan Moss and fifth-year senior Jack Wyett. They average 2.96, 3.81 and 4.17 kills per set and have 77, 118 and 121 kills on the season, respectively. All three also pose a threat from the service line with 12, nine and nine aces respectively on the season. USC also has two reliable setters, Chris Hall and Matt Faraimo — putting up 238 and 102 assists on the season, respectively.
Besides being deep at both the outside hitting and setter positions, the Trojans also run deep defensively. Grasso, Hall, Moss, Wyett and libero Matt Douglas all have over 30 digs on the season.
On a more personal note, an interesting dynamic of this game will be the interconnectedness of many of the players. Numerous athletes, especially those who are Southern California natives, have played with or against each other at the high school and club levels.
Cardinal redshirt sophomore middle blocker Cole Paullin and sophomore outside hitter J.P. Reilly are both alumni of Loyola High School in Los Angeles — where USC’s Douglas also graduated. Furthermore, Stanford junior outside hitter Eric Beatty and Southern California’s outside hitter Noah Franklin both graduated from Huntington Beach High School.
With the added pressure of being a rivalry game, tonight’s match will certainly be well-fought by both sides.
First serve will be at 7:00 p.m. PT in Maples Pavilion.
Contact Cybele Zhang at cybelez ‘at’ stanford.edu.