USC men’s volleyball fell short again Friday in its second consecutive matchup against No. 5 Pepperdine. The teams’ previous competition ended in three sets, as did this contest.
A stark contrast between Pepperdine and USC formed at the service line. The Waves combined for 10 service aces while only conceding nine points due to service errors. Alternatively, the Trojans produced 14 service errors and only one ace.
After the game, head coach Jeff Nygaard acknowledged the stellar play from Pepperdine at the service line.
“More aces than errors — I can’t remember the last time I saw that,” Nygaard said. “Credit them, they were clearly very much in a rhythm.”
Redshirt junior outside hitter Billy Fauntleroy and sophomore outside hitter Adam Flood were the most productive players on the evening for the Trojans. Fauntleroy recorded a game-high 14 kills after also leading the team with 22 kills in the previous matchup. Flood added seven kills.
Nygaard voiced his confidence in Fauntleroy’s skill set after the game.
“[Billy’s] a beast right now,” Nygaard said. “There’s no question that we just put the ball to him, and he’s going to get a kill for us.”
These feats were no match for Pepperdine’s offense, though. Senior outside hitter Spencer Wickens burned the Trojans with four service aces as part of his team-high 10 kills. Redshirt senior outside hitter Noah Dyer tacked on nine of his own kills, with five coming in the closing set.
Pepperdine also showcased its sturdy blocking ability, thwarting the Trojans’ productivity on kill attempts. The Waves combined for 9.5 total blocks, with major contributions from two freshmen — middle blocker Andersen Fuller and setter Bryce Dvorak — who combined for 10 blocking assists.
Coach Nygaard believes his team’s defense can improve.
“We’ve got to make sure we have more reps,” he said. “We’ve got to be able to hit it with far more control; we have to be far more consistent [with our reads].”
Pepperdine maintained a comfortable lead in the first two games, winning by scores of 25-19 and 25-17 respectively.
USC played its best in the third set. Redshirt senior middle blocker Vecas Lewin hit an otherworldly behind-the-head placement shot to completely fool the Pepperdine defense. Senior setter Chris Hall played with composure, dishing out 12 of his game-high 29 assists in this set.
The Trojans kept the final game close but ultimately succumbed to Pepperdine, 25-21.
USC will look to improve from this performance March 5 against BYU at the Galen Center.