Top Ranked Men's Volleyball Set To Duel No. 2 Pepperdine
April 25, 2000
THE FACTS -- The No. 1-ranked USC men's volleyball team (26-5 overall, 22-4 NCAA, 16-3 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Pacific Division for first place tie) travels to No. 2 Pepperdine (21-4, 16-3) for a semifinal match of the MPSF Championship this Thursday (April 27) at 7 p.m. The winner plays the winner of Thursday's 4:30 p.m. match between No. 3 UCLA (25-5, 15-5) and No. 6 Loyola Marymount (12-11, 8-11) in the championship match on Saturday (April 29) at 7 p.m. The MPSF tourney winner receives an automatic berth into the NCAA Final Four May 4 and 6 at Fort Wayne, Ind.
RANKINGS -- USC is first in both the USA Today/AVCA coaches poll and the Volleyball magazine poll. Pepperdine is second in both polls. UCLA is third by USA Today/AVCA and fourth by Volleyball. Loyola Marymount is sixth by USA Today/AVCA and ninth by Volleyball.
OPPONENTS -- Pepperdine, which beat No. 11 Stanford last Saturday (15-10, 15-8, 14-16, 13-15, 15-13), has won 8 of its last 9 matches. The Waves are led by Andre Breuer and Scott Wong. Pepperdine holds a 38-30 edge in its series with USC, including a pair of wins earlier this season (3-1 in the finals of the UC Santa Barbara Collegiate Invitational and 3-2 in an MPSF match in Malibu). UCLA, which swept No. 6 BYU 15-11, 15-6, 15-13 last Saturday, has won 3 of its last 5 matches after its11-match winning streak was snapped. The Bruins are led by Brandon Taliaferro and Ed Ratledge. UCLA holds a 69-29 margin in its meetings with Troy, but USC upset the then top-ranked Bruins in 5 games earlier this year (that not only broke the Trojans' 13-match losing streak to their crosstown rival, but it was USC's first regulation-match win over the Bruins since 1991, its first victory in Pauley Pavilion since 1990 and its first win in the Kilgour Cup after 7 losses). Loyola Marymount, a 15-12, 16-14, 11-15, 7-15, 23-21 upset winner over No. 3 Long Beach State on Saturday, reached the MPSF semis despite being the No. 8 seed and having lost 5 of its last 8 matches. The Lions are led by Reid Priddy and Corin Bemis. USC is 53-5 all-time versus LMU, including a pair of 3-1 victories this season.
LAST MATCH -- Brook Billings had a match-high 23 kills while hitting .472 to lead the USC to a 15-9, 15-10, 15-4 win over No. 7 Hawaii in a first round match of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Championship on Saturday (April 22) before 1,015 fans in the USC North Gym. Eli Fairfield added 15 kills and hit .414, while Beau Rawi had 11 kills (hitting .600) and a match-best 6 blocks. USC outhit (.481 to .165) and outblocked (11.0 to 6.0) the Rainbows.
RETURN TO GLORY? -- In the 15-year span from 1977 to 1991, USC was an annual contender for the NCAA title as the Trojans won 4 NCAA crowns, finished second 6 times and were third once. After an 8-year drought, USC is on the brink of returning to national prominence in 2000. Don't be surprised if this is the season that Troy makes its first visit to the NCAA Final Four since 1991.
MPSF TOURNEY -- USC is the third seed in the 8-team MPSF Championship. The April 22 first round matches were hosted by the top 4 seeds. The April 27-28 semifinals and finals will be held at the site of the highest remaining seed, Pepperdine. The teams were seeded based on their overall MPSF record. Although USC has an identical 16-3 MPSF record with Long Beach State and Pepperdine, the 49ers received the top seed and the Waves the second seed based on the MPSF tiebreaker system. Besides USC's first round win at home over sixth seed Hawaii, Pepperdine won at home over seventh-seed Stanford, UCLA won at home over fifth seed BYU and eighth seed Loyola Marymount was an upset winner at Long Beach State. Last year, in its first MPSF tourney since 1995, the 1999 Trojans advanced to the championship game before losing to eventual NCAA champ BYU, 3-1.
USC IN REGIONALS -- This is USC's 21st appearance in the regional qualifying tournament (the NCAA West Regionals through 1989, the WIVA Championships >from 1990 to 1992, and the MPSF Tournament since 1993) in the team's 31-year history. The Trojans have an overall record of 19-19 in the regionals with 6 tourney championships. But since volleyball scholarships were first awarded at USC in 1977, the Trojans are 17-9 (.654) in 16 regional appearances, including those 6 championships. USC won the regionals in 1979-80-82-85-87-91. USC went on to win the NCAA title once (1980) after winning the regional tournament. Last year, USC lost to BYU, 3-1, in the championship match of the MPSF tourney.
USC VERSUS REGIONAL FOES-- Against Pepperdine, USC is 30-38 overall (0-2 this season), including 3-2 in the regionals. Against UCLA, USC is 29-69 overall (1-0 this season), including 2-6 in the regionals. Against Loyola Marymount, USC is 53-5 overall (2-0 this season), including 0-0 in the regionals.
MATCH LENGTH -- Of USC's 21 NCAA wins in 2000, 11 have been in 3 games, 7 in 4 games and 4 in 5 games. Of Troy's 4 losses, 1 was 3-0, 1 was 3-1 and 2 were 3-2.
RANKING -- Here's where USC has been ranked in the weekly USA Today/AVCA Coaches Poll in 2000: 5-5-5-5-2-2-3-4-3-3-3-3-3-2T-1-1.
USC IN NCAAS -- If the Trojans win this MPSF tournament, they will be making their 12th appearance in the NCAA Final Four in the last 24 years (all since 1977, when USC first awarded volleyball scholarships), but their first since 1991. The Trojans won the NCAA title in 1977-80-88-90, finished second in 1979-81-85-86-87-91, and placed third in 1982. Only UCLA (21 times), Penn State (14) and Ball State (14) have been to as many or more Final Fours overall since the NCAA instituted a volleyball championship in 1970.
THE MPSF -- In all but one of the 30 years of the NCAA tourney, the national champ has come from the MPSF or its predecessor conferences.
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 title as a player--to become the USC men's volleyball head coach and help bring the Trojans back to national prominence. Now in his fourth year, his career mark is 85-48. In 1997, his first season, Powers put USC back on track, with its first winning season since 1994 at 18-14. In 1998, his Trojans went 17-17 and missed the MPSF Tournament by just one win. Last year, the 24-12 Trojans advanced to the finals of the MPSF tourney and earned a No. 7 national ranking. The 6-foot-5 Powers is 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.
DONALD SUXHO -- The team's only senior is 6-5 captain Donald Suxho of Albania, who is starting at setter for the fourth year. One of the premier setters in college, he is also a blocking force at the net and possesses a lethal jump serve. His 160 career aces is a USC record. In 2000, he tops USC in assists (1,943) and aces (54), and is second in digs (161) and blocks (90). He made the All-Tournament team at the 2000 UC Santa Barbara Collegiate Invitational (for the second consecutive year). He hit .600 with 10 kills against Penn State. He had 6 aces at San Diego State and 10 digs at UC San Diego. He hit .545 and had 9 digs at UCLA. He led USC with 4 blocks against UC Santa Barbara. He had 10 digs and 4 blocks at BYU. He had 4 aces and 7 digs at Cal Baptist. He had another 7 digs with 3 blocks versus UC Santa Cruz. He had 7 blocks at Pepperdine. Against Hawaii, he had 8 blocks the first match and 7 the next. He had 6 digs and 6 blocks versus Cal State Northridge. He had 10 kills while hitting .818 and 5 aces against Ohio State. He had 5 blocks at Long Beach State. He hit .462 with 12 digs at Stanford and hit .500 at Pacific. He hit 1.000 (8 of 8) versus UC San Diego. He had a match-high 10 blocks with 11 digs at Loyola Marymount. He had 11 digs against Long Beach State. He had 7 digs and 4 blocks against Hawaii in MPSF tourney first round play. He was named to the 1999 AVCA All-American first team when he led USC in aces (a USC season record 63), digs (199) and assists (1,871). He was second nationally in ace average in 1999 (.658, tops in the MPSF). He was an All-MPSF third teamer in 1998 when set a since-broken NCAA record for most assists in a match (129 versus Ohio State in 1997).
BROOK BILLINGS -- USC sports perhaps the top young player in the game in dominating 6-5 sophomore opposite hitter Brook Billings, who is in the starting lineup for his second season and could be in line for All-American honors. In 2000, he leads USC in kills (573). In the finals of the 2000 UC Santa Barbara Collegiate Invitational against Pepperdine, he led USC with 23 kills and 9 digs. He followed that up by equalling a career-high with 39 kills (hitting .540) against Penn State. He had 20 kills and hit .500 versus Manitoba. He had 35 kills (hitting .434) at San Diego State and 23 at UC San Diego. He then had match highs in kills against Pacific (25, while hitting .588 with 5 digs) and Stanford (15). He was named MPSF Player of the Week for his performance at UCLA, getting match highs in kills (33) and digs (a career-high 17). He had a match-best 18 kills while hitting .462 against San Diego State. He was USC's co-leader in kills (20) versus La Verne and added a match-best 11 digs. He then missed USC's next 4 matches (UC Santa Barbara, BYU, Cal Baptist and UC Santa Cruz) while recovering from a stress fracture in his lower left leg. He returned at Pepperdine and had 23 kills and 17 digs, both match highs. He played only the fifth game of the first Hawaii match, then had a team-best 19 kills with 7 blocks in the second Hawaii match. Against Cal State Northridge, he sat out the first game, then came off the bench to get 26 kills and 4 blocks in the last 4 games. He had 17 kills at UC Irvine. He had a match-best 32 kills (hitting .414) against Ohio State. He had a team-best 22 kills at Long Beach State. He had 27 kills at Stanford (hitting .417) with 11 digs and 4 blocks. He had a match best 23 kills at Pacific (hitting .594) with 4 blocks. He added 11 kills and 5 digs versus UC San Diego. He posted a career-high 50 kills (hitting .446) with 15 digs (the kills and digs were match highs) at Loyola Marymount, then had 35 kills and 14 digs (both match highs) with 9 blocks against Long Beach State to earn AVCA National Player of the Week and MPSF Player of the Week honors. He had a match-best 23 kills while hitting .472 against Hawaii in MPSF tourney first round play. In 1999, he was the Asics/Volleyball National Co-Freshman of the Year and the MPSF Freshman of the Year as he led USC in kills with 640, the fourth most ever in a season by a Trojan (more than any USC freshman), while hitting .317. He was sixth nationally in kill average (6.17) and added 169 digs (second on USC) and 92 blocks (fourth on USC). He showed just how precocious he was during USC's final 4 matches of 1999 (all against Top 7 squads) when he had an amazing 30-plus kills in each outing (and he had 20-plus kills in the last 9 matches of 1999).
ELI FAIRFIELD -- Back for his third year starting at an outside hitter spot is junior Eli Fairfield. In 2000, he is second on USC in kills (475) and third in aces (40). In the finals of the 2000 UC Santa Barbara Collegiate Invitational against Pepperdine, he had 17 kills and hit. 344. He had 10 kills, 5 aces and 6 digs in the first match against Penn State, then came back the next night to post 19 kills and 5 digs. He had 17 kills and hit .464 versus Manitoba. He had 25 kills at San Diego State. He then had 13 kills and 5 blocks against both Pacific (hitting .391) and Stanford(hitting .478). At UCLA, he had 19 kills and a career-high 15 digs. He had 26 kills and 15 digs, both match highs, against UC Santa Barbara. At BYU, he had a career-best and match-high 42 kills, plus 10 digs. For his performances against UC Santa Barbara and BYU, he was named the AVCA National Player of the Week. He missed USC's matches against Cal Baptist and UC Santa Cruz while resting a stress fracture in his leg. He returned at Pepperdine and had 19 kills and 5 blocks. Against Hawaii, he had a match-best 40 kills (hitting .373) with 6 digs in the first match and 16 kills (hitting .393) in the second match. He had a team-best 28 kills while hitting .468 with 5 blocks against Cal State Northridge. He had a match-high 20 kills while hitting .600 at UC Irvine. He had 16 kills and 5 blocks against Ohio State. He had 12 kills and 5 blocks at Long Beach State. He had a team-best 29 kills (hitting .400) with 4 aces, 11 digs and 6 blocks at Stanford, then added 20 kills (hitting .455) at Pacific. He had a team-best 14 kills (hitting .619) with a match-high 6 aces against UC San Diego. He had 11 kills at Loyola Marymount. He had 20 kills, 10 digs, 5 blocks and 4 aces against Long Beach State. He had 15 kills (hitting .414) against Hawaii in MPSF tourney first round play. Last season, the 6-7 Fairfield was second on USC in kills (501) while hitting .283 and in aces (30) and fourth in digs (139) and blocks (83). He was a Freshman All-American in 1998.
TREVOR JULIAN -- Also returning for his third year starting at outside hitter is junior Trevor Julian. This year, he is second on USC in aces (51) and is third in kills (349) and hitting percentage (.370). He had 13 kills (hitting .530) and 3 aces against Penn State. He had 17 kills (hitting .414) with 5 aces and 6 blocks at San Diego State, then added 10 kills at UC San Diego. At UCLA, he had 15 kills and 3 aces. He hit .727 with 9 kills against San Diego State. He was USC's co-leader in kills (20) versus La Verne while hitting .467. He had 15 kills (hitting .417) with 5 aces against UC Santa Barbara. At BYU, he had a career-best 23 kills, plus 11 digs and 4 blocks. He led USC in kills at Cal Baptist with another 23 while hitting .410. He had 14 kills (hitting .375) with 3 blocks versus UC Santa Cruz. Had had another 14 kills at Pepperdine. Against Hawaii, he had 15 kills in the first match and 14 in the second. Against Cal State Northridge, he not only had 13 kills (hitting .346) and 6 aces (1 shy of the USC single match record), but with the Matadors leading 14-13 and serving for the match, he stretched out along the back line to make a miraculous backhanded flipper dig of a CSUN spike to keep the Trojans' hopes alive (Troy won 21-19). He had 12 kills (hitting .556) at UC Irvine. He had 8 digs and 6 aces against Ohio State. He had 22 kills (hitting .613) with 8 digs and 6 blocks at Stanford, then had 12 kills (hitting .625) at Pacific. He had 12 kills at Loyola Marymount. He had 16 kills (hitting .460) against Long Beach State. Last season, the 6-5 Julian was third on USC in kills (269), aces (24) and digs (154) in 1999, and also had 80 blocks.
BEAU RAWI -- Beau Rawi, a 6-5 sophomore middle blocker, is USC's fifth returning starter. In 2000, he leads USC in blocks (133) and hitting percentage (.435). He made the All-Tournament team at the 2000 UC Santa Barbara Collegiate Invitational (he hit .313 in the final against Pepperdine). He had 6 blocks in the first match against Penn State, then had 11 kills (hitting .450) with 5 blocks the next match. Against Manitoba, he had 10 kills and hit .600. He hit .611 with 13 kills and had 6 blocks at San Diego State, then added 8 blocks at UC San Diego. Against Pacific, he hit .615 with 9 kills, then hit .714 with 12 kills and 5 blocks versus Stanford. At UCLA, he hit .448 with 16 kills and had a match-best 6 blocks. He hit .462 with 9 kills against San Diego State. He hit .524 with 16 kills against La Verne. At BYU, he had a career-best 25 kills (hitting .588) with 7 blocks. He had 17 kills at Cal Baptist. He hit .412 with 10 kills and added 5 blocks against UC Santa Cruz. He had 6 blocks at Pepperdine. Against Hawaii, he had 15 kills (hitting .323) with 8 blocks in the first match and 12 kills (hitting .364) with 8 blocks in the second. He had a match-best 7 blocks at Long Beach State. He had 14 kills (hitting .417) with 9 blocks at Stanford. He had 23 kills (hitting a match-high .733) with 7 blocks at Loyola Marymount. He had 11 kills and a match-high 10 blocks against Long Beach State. He had 11 kills (hitting .600) and a match-best 6 blocks against Hawaii in MPSF tourney first round play. He was second on USC in blocks with 114 in 1999, and also had 235 kills while hitting .358, 18 aces (fourth on USC) and 104 digs.
MARK DUSHARME -- The only new starter in USC's lineup is 6-7 freshman Mark Dusharme, a 1999 Volleyball Fab 50 pick and 2-time All-CIF San Diego Section first teamer at Bonita Vista High in Chula Vista, Calif. He is third on USC in blocks (85). In the finals of the 2000 UC Santa Barbara Collegiate Invitational against Pepperdine, he hit .615. He had 11 kills (hitting .430) against Penn State. He hit .615 with 8 kills versus Stanford. He hit .714 with 11 kills and 3 aces against San Diego State. He had 10 kills while hitting .455 against UC Santa Barbara. He had a career-best 21 kills at Cal Baptist while playing opposite hitter in place of an injured Brook Billings. Against UC Santa Cruz, he again had 21 kills and hit .679, both match highs. He had 10 kills and 8 blocks at Pepperdine. He had 14 kills (hitting .500) and a match-best 7 blocks against Cal State Northridge. He had 13 kills against Ohio State. He had 12 kills while hitting a match-best .550 at Long Beach State. He had 14 kills (hitting .600) with 5 blocks at Stanford. He added 5 blocks versus UC San Diego. He had 12 kills and 8 blocks at Loyola Marymount. He hit .500 with 11 kills and 9 blocks against Long Beach State. He was a member of the 1999 USA Boys Youth National Training team and the 1998 USA Youth National team, where he was named the ?Best Blocker? at the NORCECA Youth National Tournament. He's back to full speed now after being slowed in fall workouts by injuries (back stress fracture, appendectomy), although he missed some time in early-season 2000 matches.
RESERVES -- Providing depth at outside hitter are Ryan Thurlow, an experienced 6-2 junior, and 6-8 walk-on freshman Marcus Gilmour, USC's biggest player who has loads of potential. When Brook Billings was sidelined this year with a stress fracture in his leg, Thurlow started 5 consecutive matches. First, against La Verne, he had 16 kills. He posted 15 kills with 3 blocks against UC Santa Barbara. At BYU, he had 16 kills, 10 digs and 4 blocks. He had 13 kills at Cal Baptist. He had 6 digs versus UC Santa Cruz. He sprained his ankle in practice prior to the first round of the MPSF tourney and is sidelined indefinitely. He was a part-time starter in 1998 and appeared in 9 matches as a reserve in 1999. Gilmour was named to the 1999 Volleyball Fab 50 team and the All-CIF Division III first team at Santa Ynez (Calif.) High, which won the CIF Division III championship last season. Gilmour played on the 1999 USA Junior Nationals Boys 18-and-Under champion. He is redshirting in 2000 after knee surgery this past fall. Josh Day, a 6-6 walk-on freshman, is an often-used reserve middle blocker. He is second on USC in hitting percentage (.413) in 2000. This year, he hit .444 with 6 blocks at San Diego State, then hit .538 with another 6 blocks while starting at UC San Diego. He also started versus Pacific. He hit .500 with 6 kills while starting against La Verne. He came off the bench to hit .800 against UC Santa Barbara. He started at Cal Baptist and had 3 aces. He hit .467 with 9 kills and 4 blocks off the bench against Cal State Northridge. He started at UC Irvine and had a career-best 13 kills (hitting .706) and a match-high 5 blocks. He started again versus Ohio State. He hit .429 while starting versus UC San Diego. He was on the 1999 Volleyball Fab 50 team and was an All-State first teamer at Kamehameha High in Honolulu, Hi. Suxho's backup at setter in 2000 is 6-2 redshirt freshman walk-on Dustin Avol, who did not compete at USC last year after attending prep powerhouse Mira Costa High in Manhattan Beach, Calif. He subs in occasionally as a serving specialist. He started at setter against La Verne this season. But waiting in the wings is highly-touted 6-5 freshman setter Miles McGann, a 3-time All-CIF first teamer (he was MVP of the 1999 All-CIF Division III team) and a Volleyball Fab 50 choice at Laguna Beach (Calif.) High. He has appeared in 10 matches in 2000. His first appearance came mid-season when he started at outside hitter for the first 4 games of the first match against Hawaii while Brook Billings rested a sore leg and posting 13 kills. He also started against Cal State Northridge (he played just the first game before Billings came in). He was a 4-time All-American first team selection at the USA Junior Nationals (his team finished first twice) and was on the 1998 USA Youth National team.
LIBEROS -- USC has a pair of players capable of ably filling the new libero position, a combination defensive and passing specialist: 6-0 sophomore Greg Burden and 5-10 redshirt freshman walk-on John Hinds. This season, Burden leads USC in digs (178). He had 9 digs against Pepperdine in the finals of the 2000 UC Santa Barbara Collegiate Invitational, 7 against Penn State, 8 at San Diego State, 10 at UCLA, 9 against UC Santa Barbara, a match-best 21 at BYU, a match-best 9 at Cal Baptist, 13 at Pepperdine, 9 in the first Hawaii match, 7 against Cal State Northridge, 9 at Long Beach State, 11 at Loyola Marymount and 12 against Long Beach State. Hinds had 7 digs at UC San Diego, 10 versus Stanford and 10 at UC Irvine. Burden is the more skilled passer, while Hinds is better on defense. Burden saw limited action in 3 matches last year at Troy, while Hinds sat out 1999 at USC after prepping at Santa Margarita High in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. Hinds played on the 1998 USA Junior Nationals Boys 18-and-Under champion. Hinds suffered a knee sprain in early January and will be sidelined several weeks.
NOTES -- USC went 14-0 at home this season, its first unblemished home record
since going 9-0 in 1991 (and only the Trojans' fourth undefeated home
season, as they were 11-0 in 1986 and 8-0 in 1981). The 14 victories also
were Troy's most ever at home...This is the first time that USC has
finished atop the league standings since 1991...USC's 16 league wins is its
most since getting 16 in 1991...USC's season average of 1.92 aces per game
is well ahead of the school record (1.54, set in 1989)...USC's 15 aces
against Ohio State was a school single-match record...USC has played 5-game
matches 6 times in 2000 (Troy is 4-2 in 5-game matches this season,
including wins in the past 3 such matches)...USC's 21-19 score in the fifth
game against Cal State Northridge was the highest-scoring fifth game in
Trojan history...When USC upset top-ranked UCLA in 5 games on Feb. 4, the
Trojans not only broke a 13-match losing streak to their crosstown rival,
but it was USC's first regulation-match win over the Bruins since 1991, its
first victory in Pauley Pavilion since 1990 and its first win in the
Kilgour Cup after 7 losses...Before losing at BYU, USC (at 14-1) was off to
its best overall start, NCAA start and MPSF start since 1994...Also, before
the BYU loss, USC was ranked first by Volleyball Magazine and second by the
AVCA/USA Today. Before that, the last time USC was ranked No. 1 in any
poll was the season-ending AVCA poll in 1991 and the last time USC was
ranked second in the USA Today/AVCA poll was March 1, 1994...USC
accomplished perfection against UC San Diego, winning the third game
15-0...Here's a rarity in the world of men's athletics. One of USC's
assistant coaches is a woman, Laura Ames, who was the women's head coach at
both Aurora (1993-95) and Benedictine (1996-97)...Beau Rawi's brother,
Omar, started for USC's men's volleyball team in 1998 and 1999...Ryan
Thurlow's father, Toby, lettered for USC's 1962 national championship
football team and his grandfather, Leavitt, lettered in football from 1934
to 1936...Miles McGann's brother, Grant, played water polo at USC in 1997
and his cousin, Jeremy Laster, is a member of the USA national water polo
team...Several dozen of Marcus Gilmour's relatives attended USC, including
his mother and father.