USC suffered a crushing defeat against Grand Canyon Saturday battling for five sets with the stubborn Lopes in the Trojans’ last regular season game. Although the Trojans brought intensity and skill to the last three sets, they were unable to overcome unforced errors and fell 3-2.
The Trojans came out stronger than they did in their matchup yesterday against GCU, seemingly determined to stick it out against the Lopes after getting swept in three sets the day before. Redshirt junior opposite Billy Fauntleroy brought the heat early, taking big rips all game. Fauntleroy ended up with an astounding 31 kills and eight digs, capping off the season with a dominant performance.
Missed serves on both sides kept the first set alive into the 30-point range, but GCU ultimately took the set 33-31. USC redshirt junior outside hitter Noah Franklin got off to an explosive start, though, matching up against GCU’s big block to knock down kill after kill in the first few sets.
Redshirt senior Vecas Lewin looked sharp entering the second and third sets, slam-dunking overpasses at the feet of the Lopes. The third set marked a resurgence for the Trojans, and their resilience on defense and aggressive net play saved them from being swept yet again.
The Trojans brought the whole shebang to the fourth set: excellent defense, strategic kill placement, blocking — you name it. Meanwhile, GCU began to show signs of exhaustion. Senior libero Cole Paxson made seemingly impossible digs and off-the-block recoveries, keeping rallies alive long enough to give his team an opportunity to score. Paxson came up with 19 digs in total.
With the Trojans and Lopes even at two sets each, it all came down to the fifth and final set. The frame began as an aggressive point-for-point matchup. The Trojans had a huge start with a lengthy rally and an impressive kill by Fauntleroy.
However, the set got away from them halfway through, and GCU managed to put a few points between itself and the Trojans. Ultimately, GCU hung on to win the draining match.
The Trojans have faced a season of uncertainty, with the pandemic rocking the college sports world off its previously stable axis. But that doesn’t mean the Trojans took the regular season lying down.
USC’s serve receive is only improving, and the way setter Chris Hall connects with the front row remains solid across the board. While the team’s record may not reflect it, the Trojans appear capable of playing at a high level against the rest of the Pac-12. With the regular season over, the Trojans now face the MPSF Tournament quarterfinals hosted by Brigham Young University.