Jan. 21, 1998
Usc Hosts Pair of Matches against Hawai'i at North Gym
LOS ANGELES- The USC men's volleyball team (7-4 overall, 1-2 NCAA, 0-1 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) hosts HawaiOEi in back-to-back contests at the North Gym on Friday (Jan. 23) at 5 p.m. and Saturday (Jan. 24) at 7 p.m. Both are MPSF matches. This is the start of a four-match homestand for the young Trojans, who start three freshmen and have nine on the roster.
RANKINGS - USC is No. 11 in the Jan. 20 Volleyball Magazine rankings and No. 12 in the Jan. 20 USA Today/AVCA Coaches poll. Hawai'i is No. 6 and No. 5, respectively.
OPPONENT - Hawai'i (2-1, 0-0) opened the season with a second-place finish at its own Outrigger Invitational. Freshman middle blocker Dejan Miladinovic had 65 kills in the three matches while sophomore middle blocker Andre Breuer had 64. Freshman setter Jorge Perez had 201 assists. The Trojans are 23-16 against the Rainbows all-time, but have lost the last six matches. The last USC victory came in 1994.
LAST TWO MATCHES - On Tuesday (Jan. 20), the Trojans fell to Cal State Northridge, 15-9, 6-15, 15-6, 11-15, 14-16, in a nonconference match at the Matadome. Senior middle blocker Szilard Kovacs had 22 kills and seven blocks, but USC couldn't hold on to a 2-1 lead. On Jan. 17, the Trojans lost to No. 4 Long Beach State, 15-4, 15-11, 15-13, in their home and MPSF opener. The 49ers hit a blistering .471 as a team, while USC hit just .196. Kovacs had 15 kills and four block assists.
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 Crown0/00: 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 is USC's go-to player in 1998. The 6-foot-10 All-American candidate from Hungary just missed tying his career high with 22 kills against Cal State Northridge (Jan. 20). He also hit .341 and had seven blocks. He had 15 kills against Long Beach State (Jan. 17). He missed the Cal State San Bernardino match (Jan. 14) with the flu. Overall, Kovacs has a team-best 37 kills (4.6 a game) and is hitting .292. Szilard 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 runs USC,s offense and provides leadership. An All-American candidate, Donald is averaging 12.3 assists a game and has 135 this season with a high of 63 against Cal State Northridge (Jan. 20). He also has a team-high 17 digs this season. Suxho 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. Omar Rawi, a 6-foot-5 junior, has started the first three matches. He has 20 kills and a team-leading 12 blocks. Rawi played in 17 matches in 1997 and had 65 kills and 32 blocks. Trent Brown, a 6-foot-7 senior, saw a majority of the time at the position at the UC Santa Barbara Invitational and started the Cal State San Bernardino match in Kovacs' absence. He has nine kills in two matches. Brown appeared in eight matches in 1997 and had 26 kills and 14 blocks. A freshman, 6-foot-7 Tony Knopp (Cupertino, Monta Vista High), will also be in the rotation. He has appeared in one match in 1998.
OUTSIDE HITTERS - Freshmen have been starting at all three outside hitter positions while junior Brad Callahan recovers from ankle surgery: Eli Fairfield, Trevor Julian and Craig Dennis. Fairfield (Valley Center, La Costa Canyon High) is 6-foot-6 and has 31 kills, second best on the team. Julian (Encino, Harvard-Westlake High) is 6-foot-4 and has 24 kills, third best on the team. Dennis (Fresno, Bullard High) is 6-foot-3 and is hitting .238. A fourth freshman outside hitter, Ryan Thurlow (Irvine, Capistrano Valley High), 6-foot-2, is also expected to see playing time and has appeared in two matches. Sophomore David Grimm, 6-foot-5, has also played in two matches.
BRYANT EDWARDS - Defensive specialist Bryant Edwards, a 5-foot-11 senior, provides a great lift from off the bench. He has one dig this season and 70 in his career.
FRESHMEN - USC welcomed nine freshmen to the program, six of whom earned notice on the prestigious Volleyball Fab 50 list. Besides the previously mentioned Knopp, Julian, Dennis, Fairfield and Thurlow, there's also 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).