It’s not time to panic, yet.When the final kill hit the hardwood on USC’s side of the net, the Trojans stood as still as Michelangelo’s David, frozen in a state of disbelief before finally, mechanically, shaking hands with the opponent.Down · Junior Austin Zahn and the Trojans have lost three of four. – Gary Fung | Daily Trojan The No. 2 USC men’s volleyball team couldn’t believe they had just been swept by No. 7 Pepperdine at home Friday night (30-28, 30-28, 30-26) for their third loss in four games. Two of those losses have come at the hands of the Waves (5-4, 5-3), who dethroned the former No. 1 Trojans (7-4, 5-3) in a five-set thriller two weeks ago in Malibu, Calif.This time, the Waves only needed three sets to put a dent at the start of the Trojans’ seven-game homestand and plant a seed of doubt in the back of the team’s mind.“I think coach said it well that it’s not panic time, but it’s concerned time,” said Tony Ciarelli, sophomore outside hitter. “We should all be a little concerned right now. We should be playing better than this.”USC had a chance to close out the third set and extend the match, but, much like the previous two sets, the Trojans got stuck in a rotation and it hurt them. With USC up 20-18, Pepperdine called a timeout, then proceeded to go on a deadly 10-2 run to put the match away.The same thing happened in the second set. The Trojans took a 12-11 lead, only to watch as the Waves went on a 6-0 run. Once the Trojans were able to get out of their rotation, they clawed their way back to tie the game at 28. But they couldn’t put it away.“It wasn’t like throughout the game we were playing terrible,” Ciarelli said. “We weren’t playing bad for 90 percent of the game but that 10 percent just took out that other 90. It was that one rotation that was killing us.”Other than getting stuck in one rotation, USC had trouble passing and building onto a lead. USC’s biggest lead was four points — 16-12 in the first set — and every time the Trojans looked like they were ready to pull away they made a mistake and the Waves reeled them back in.USC was never able to pull away because of the predictability of passes. Opposite hitter Murphy Troy and Ciarelli had 71 combined attempts — more than double the rest of the team. They put away only 29 of those attempts while middle blockers Austin Zahn and Hunter Current killed 19 balls on 31 attempts. If the Trojans could’ve gotten Zahn and Current the ball more, the match might have turned out differently.“We’re not passing the ball as well as we can so we’re not getting opportunities to set them,” USC coach Bill Ferguson said. “The passing was huge and did us in tonight and made our offense two-dimensional instead of three.”Despite this, Ferguson said panic time hasn’t arrived yet. He points to the late start in the fall — Troy, Ciarelli and outside hitter Tri Bourne played on the USA Junior National team at the world championships in August and Current was injured. As well as, the weekly Wednesday/Friday matches they had earlier this season, giving USC only one real day of practice.So, it’s back to the gym for the Trojans, where all they can do is continue to work to end their midseason funk.“We go back to the practice gym and video room and keep getting better,” Ferguson said. “This is only the second week we’ve had to train since late December, so we are finally able to get back to the drawing board, and anytime we get to train right now is going to be huge for us.”
Baseball comes home from Stanford after losing two of three games to the Cardinals over the weekend. The Trojans now find themselves two games under .500 at 12-14 for the season and they are at an even 3-3 in Pac-12 play. They will look to start building some momentum on Tuesday in their first of four home games this week, as USC hosts Pepperdine at Dedeaux Field on Tuesday night.The team’s last loss to Stanford was a bitter pill to swallow — at one point the Trojans even looked primed to go for a three-game sweep. After grabbing a 1-0 win on Friday night, USC led the Cardinals 8-3 through five innings the next day at Klein Field at Sunken Diamond — the halfway point of the series. At its conclusion, however, the Trojans had dropped the series, blowing the lead on Saturday in an 11-8 loss and dropping the rubber game on Sunday, 8-1.“We just didn’t play very good baseball for the last game and a half,” head coach Dan Hubbs said.Although it is far from time to panic, the margin for error is beginning to thin, as Pac-12 play has ramped up in earnest. USC will face a conference opponent week-in and week-out for the remainder of the regular season and the team finds itself looking for a spark going into its midweek matchup against Pepperdine.Hubbs emphasized that the Trojans have to stay within themselves and execute fundamentals to generate some energy.“We need to throw strikes, play defense and get timely hits,” Hubbs said. “We just need to play consistently and if we do that, I think we’ll be in good shape.”The head coach urged his players to continue to play confidently and with self-belief, saying the results will follow.“I honestly believe we’re going to go on our run,” Hubbs said. “There’s too much talent here not to. The way we won’t … is if we start feeling sorry for ourselves.”The Trojans will look to start their run against a Pepperdine team that sits at 13-13 for the season. The Waves are battle-tested and are coming off of their first in-conference series win of the season against USF. However, Pepperdine has not traveled well so far this spring. Albeit in small sample size, the Waves currently sport a 1-6 record on the road.USC will look to add to Pepperdine’s traveling woes at Dedeaux Field. Tuesday will be an opportunity for the Trojans to rebound from their weekend losses and kick their season into high gear.“There’s plenty of time to turn it around and play the kind of baseball we think we’re capable of playing, and if we do that, then it’ll all work out for us,” Hubbs said. “I still believe that these kids are capable of going on a big run and putting ourselves in a position to go to the postseason.”First pitch between USC and Pepperdine will be at 6 p.m. at Dedeaux Field.