Jan. 26, 1998
USC Men's Volleyball Hosts San Diego State and UC San Diego this Week
LOS ANGELES - The USC men's volleyball team (7-6 overall, 1-4 NCAA, 0-3 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) hosts San Diego State on Wednesday (Jan. 28) and UC San Diego on Saturday (Jan. 31). Both matches will start at 7 p.m. and will take place in the North Gym. This is the end of a four-match homestand for the young Trojans, who start three freshmen and have nine on the roster.
RANKINGS - USC is No. 12 in the Jan. 20 USA Today/AVCA Coaches poll and No. 11 in the Jan. 20 Volleyball Magazine rankings. San Diego State and UC San Diego are unranked.
NOTES - This season is the first that USC has ever had three freshmen regularly start ... USC's four-match losing streak is its longest since 1995, when it lost five matches in a row (best-of-five matches only).
OPPONENTS - San Diego State (0-2, 0-2) opened the season with a four-game loss at Pacific and a five-game loss at Stanford. Both were MPSF contests. Senior outside hitter Matt Hyden had 45 kills against the Tigers and 22 against the Cardinal. USC is 49-12 all-time against San Diego State and has won the last two.
UC San Diego (1-3, 0-2) plays Long Beach State on Wed., Jan. 28) also lost to Pacific and Stanford last weekend in MPSF play. The Trojans are 14-1 all-time against the Tritons, but last year's five-game loss in San Diego was the Tritons, first victory ever against a Top 10 team.
LAST TWO MATCHES - HawaiOEi took two matches from USC last weekend at the North Gym, beating the Trojans on Friday (Jan. 23), 15-9, 15-11, 13-15, 15-1, and on Saturday (Jan. 24), 15-8, 15-8, 15-11. In the first meeting, senior middle blocker Szilard Kovacs had 20 kills and 11 blocks and freshman outside hitter Eli Fairfield had 17 kills. The Trojans hit .175 as a team compared to the Rainbows, .277. It was much the same the next night, with USC hitting .234 to the Rainbows, .284. Fairfield had a team-high 15 kills.
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 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 followed that with 20 kills and a career-high 11 blocks against Hawaii (Jan. 23).
He missed the Cal State San Bernardino match (Jan. 14) with the flu. Overall, Kovacs has a team-best 70 kills (4.7 a game) and is hitting .240. Szilard led Troy in hitting in each of his first three seasons and ranked 15th nationally as a 1997 junior, hitting .420. 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 13.4 assists a game and has 242 this season with a high of 63 against Cal State Northridge (Jan. 20). He also has a team-high 30 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, with Omar Rawi the early leader.
* Rawi, a 6-foot-5 junior, started the first five matches. He has 31 kills, a team-high .271 hitting percentage and 17 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 14 kills in three matches. Brown appeared in eight matches in 1997 and had 26 kills and 14 blocks.
* Tony Knopp (Cupertino, Monta Vista High), a 6-foot-7 freshman, will also be in the rotation. He has appeared in two matches 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 63 kills, second best on the team. He had a team-high 15 kills against Hawaii (Jan. 24) following a season-high 17 against the Rainbows a day earlier.
* Julian (Encino, Harvard-Westlake High) is 6-foot-4 and has 47 kills, third best on the team.
* Dennis (Fresno, Bullard High) is 6-foot-3 and has 40 kills, fourth best on the team.
* Ryan Thurlow (Irvine, Capistrano Valley High), 6-foot-2 and another freshman outside hitter, has been one of the top reserves, appearing in three matches.
* David Grimm, a 6-foot-5 sophomore, has 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). Of this group, only Anderson has seen playing time thus far.