Men's Volleyball
    Jan. 12, 1998

    USC Men's Volleyball Visits Cal State San Bernardino

    Trojans then have home and MPSF opener vs. Long Beach State

    THIS WEEK - The USC men's volleyball team (6-2 overall, 0-0 NCAA) travels east down the I-10 to play Cal State San Bernardino on Wednesday (Jan. 14) at 7 p.m., then has its home opener (and Mountain Pacific Sports Federation opener) against Long Beach State on Saturday (Jan. 17) at 7 p.m. in the North Gym.

    RANKINGS - In the Jan. 12 Volleyball Magazine rankings, USC is No. 11 and Long Beach State is No. 4. Cal State San Bernardino is not ranked.

    OPPONENTS - Division II Cal State San Bernardino (0-0) and USC met for the first time at the UC Santa Barbara Invitational in 1997, with the Trojans winning, 15-12, 15-7. The Coyotes went 4-9 last season ... Long Beach State (0-0 hosts La Verne on Wednesday) placed fifth at the UC Santa Barbara Invitational last weekend. USC holds a 43-22 advantage in the all-time series, but has lost the last two to the 49ers. Last season, Long Beach State was 19-10 overall and 12-7 in the MPSF. Senior middle blocker Gaby Amar was an All-American first teamer in 1997.

    LAST WEEK - USC placed seventh at the UC Santa Barbara Invitational last weekend (Jan. 9-10), finishing with a 6-2 mark. On the first day, the Trojans defeated La Verne (15-4, 15-8), lost to Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne (11-15, 7-15), beat California (15-6, 15-12), beat Washington State (15-13, 9-15, 15-5) and lost to No. 3 Pepperdine (8-15, 9-15). The Trojans then had a perfect second day, defeating BYU (17-15, 16-14) - the No. 1 team in the country - Sacramento State (15-5, 15-6) and finally No. 8 Stanford in the seventh-place game (10-15, 15-13, 15-13).

    COACH PAT POWERS - Legendary Olympic gold medalist, collegiate All-American and pro beach star Pat Powers returned in 1997 to his alma mater - which he led to the 1980 NCAA championship as a player - to become the USC men's volleyball head coach and help bring the Trojans back to national prominence. In 1997, his first season, Powers put USC back on track, with its first winning season since 1994 at 18-14. The 6-foot-5 Powers is regarded as one of the greatest players in international volleyball history. He was a member of the U.S. National Team for nine years (1978-86) and started at outside hitter on a squad that won America's first-ever ,Triple Crown: the 1984 Olympics, the 1985 World Cup and the 1986 World Championships.


    Szilard Kovacs.
    One of the top middle blockers in the nation, senior Szilard Kovacs will be USC's go-to player in 1998. The 6-foot-10 All-American candidate from Hungary led Troy in hitting in each of his first three seasons and ranked 15th nationally as a 1997 junior, hitting .420. Kovacs also led USC in blocks with 105 last season. His career high is 23 kills, set against Ohio State in 1997. He is Troy's tallest player ever.

    DONALD SUXHO - The team captain as just a sophomore, 6-foot-5 setter Donald Suxho will run USC's offense and provide leadership. He is an All-American candidate who had 1,585 assists as a 1997 freshman, including an NCAA single-match record 129 against Ohio State. The native of Albania ranked 11th nationally in assist average (17.04) and 16th nationally in dig average (2.37) in 1997.

    MIDDLE BLOCKERS - Three players are vying to start alongside Szilard Kovacs at middle blocker. Trent Brown, a 6-foot-7 senior, saw a majority of the time at the position at the UC Santa Barbara Invitational last weekend. He appeared in eight matches in 1997 and had 26 kills and 14 blocks. Omar Rawi, a 6-foot-5 junior, is another candidate. He played in 17 matches in 1997 and had 65 kills and 32 blocks. A freshman, 6-foot-7 Tony Knopp, will also be in the rotation.

    FRESHMEN - USC welcomes nine freshmen to the program, six of whom earned notice on the prestigious Volleyball Fab 50 list. Freshmen may start at all three outside hitter positions while junior Brad Callahan recovers from ankle surgery. The leaders to start at outside hitter are 6-foot-3 Craig Dennis (Fresno, Bullard High), 6-foot-6 Eli Fairfield (Valley Center, La Costa Canyon High), 6-foot-4 Trevor Julian (Encino, Harvard-Westlake High) and 6-foot-2 Ryan Thurlow (Irvine, Capistrano Valley High).

    The other freshmen are 6-foot-3 setter Caleb Anderson (Claremont, Claremont High), 6-foot-5 middle blocker Ryan Hill (Encino, Crespi High), 6-foot-4 outside hitter Blair Hoppe (Corona del Mar, Corona del Mar High) and 6-foot-4 outside hitter/middle blocker Conor Frickman (Encinitas, La Costa Canyon High). There,s also the previously mentioned Tony Knopp (Cupertino, Monta Vista High), a 6-foot-7 middle blocker.

    PAT POWERS SAYS - "At UC Santa Barbara last weekend, I just put the freshmen in and told them see you at the end of the tournament. It was very encouraging because we got a lot better. We made a lot more progress in this tournament this year than we did last year. Our players got noticeably better. We are a much better passing team than we were last year. We have a ways to go with our blocking, but that will come. We beat BYU, the No. 1 team in the country, in a very close match. This week's match against Long Beach State is one of our biggest matches of the year. We have to take care of business against Cal State San Bernardino first, but both Long Beach and USC have young, excellent players who are going to get better over the years."

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