USC Men's Volleyball 2000 Review
May 2, 2000
LOS ANGELES - For the second year in a row, the 2000 USC men's volleyball team knocked on the door of the NCAA Final Four, but didn't quite get in.
In both seasons, the Trojans were a victory away from getting a berth into the NCAA Championship, where USC has won four NCAA crowns, finished second six times and was third once.
Only a close loss to Pepperdine in the semifinals of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament kept Troy home in 2000.
Still, the Trojans showed that they have returned to national prominence. USC sported a 22-5 NCAA record (with a No. 3 ranking in the national polls) and captured a share of the Pacific Division crown in the difficult Mountain Pacific Sports Federation by going 16-3 (its first league title since 1991).
Troy played well all season under the direction of fourth-year head coach Pat Powers, the former USC All-American, Olympic gold medalist and pro beach star. USC not only has defeated most of the top teams from the West, but also some of the best that the East (Penn State twice on the road) and Midwest (Ohio State) had to offer.
USC twice beat a No. 1-ranked squad in 2000. First, the Trojans posted a dramatic five-game win at UCLA (which not only broke a 13-match losing streak to their crosstown rival, but 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 seven losses). Then, USC ended its regular season with a four-game home victory over Long Beach State.
USC was 14-0 at home, its first unblemished home season since 1991 and its most home wins ever. For two weeks near the end of the season, Troy was ranked No. 1 in the coaches poll (another first since 1991).
The Trojans featured perhaps the nation's premier setter in two-time All-American Donald Suxho, who was named the 2000 AVCA National Player of the Year and the MPSF Player of the Year. He owns the USC career record for aces. The native of Albania, a four-year starter and the team's only senior, was also a presence blocking at the net and digging balls on the floor.
USC also had one of the sport's top young players in sophomore Brooks Billings, a dominating opposite hitter who led the team in kills. He made the 2000 AVCA All-American second team and All-MPSF first team. Nobody in the country hits the ball harder.
A pair of steady juniors--Eli Fairfield and Trevor Julian--manned USC's outside hitting spots. Both were strong hitters, accurate passers, lethal jump servers and dependable defenders. Fairfield was a 2000 All-MPSF second teamer, while Julian made All-MPSF honorable mention.
Soph Greg Burden, Troy's libero, proved to be an outstanding passer and digger (he led Troy in digs).
Several others contributed off the bench. Josh Day started several matches at middle blocker, while fellow freshman Miles McGann came in to jump serve (he even started a few midseason matches when Billings was injured). Dustin Avol was a serving specialist and John Hinds, a redshirt freshman like Avol, saw action at libero. Junior Ryan Thurlow filled in at times as an outside hitter.
With everyone but Suxho returning next season, 2001 could be the year that
USC's persistent knocking on the door finally gets answered by returning to
the NCAA Final Four for the first time since 1991.