FloVolleyball is excited to introduce our NCAA Men's Countdown, ranking the top 10 collegiate men's volleyball teams in the country leading up to the start of the 2017 season.
The No. 10 spot goes to the University of Southern California this year, and here's why:
Healing veterans and promising freshmen make USC a 2017 wild card.
7-19 overall, 5-17 in MPSF (11th place)
Final 2016 RPI: 25
Team Hitting Percentage: .230 (#32 in NCAA)
Team blocks per set: 1.76 (#36)
RETURNING STARSLucas Yoder | 6-foot-4 | Senior | Outside Hitter
3.21 kills/set (#37 in NCAA); .266; 0.39 blocks/set
Andy Benesh | 6-9 | Senior | Middle Blocker
1.45 kills/set; .377; 0.69 blocks/set
Jon Rivera | 6-6 | Junior | Opposite
2.58 kills/set; .169; 0.36
PROMISING NEWCOMERSTyler Resnick | 6-7 | Redshirt Freshman | Middle Blocker
Lucas Lossone | 6-7 | Freshman | Opposite
Aaron Strange | 6-4 | Freshman | Outside Hitter
Sean Morrissey | 6-5 |Freshman | Outside Hitter
Matt Faraimo | 6-3 | Freshman | Setter
Matt Hassel | 6-8 | Freshman | Middle Blocker
Michael Chang | 5-8 | Freshman | Libero
Jackson Wedbush | 6-2 | Freshman | Outside Hitter
BIGGEST LOSSESBrooks Varni | 6-2 | Libero
1.79 digs/set (#43 in NCAA)
Alex Slaught | 6-4 | Outside Hitter
2.40 kills/set; .176; 0.31 blocks/set
Tommy Leonard | 6-8 | Middle Blocker
1.50 kills/set; .319; 0.74 blocks/set
Josh Kirchner | 6-6 | Opposite
1.09 kills/set; .402; 0.60 blocks/set
Non-Conference Matches to Watch
January 6 at Ohio State
January 7 at Penn State
March 9 vs. Lewis
The Trojans were hit with several injuries during the fall, which makes them a bit of an enigma as the 2017 season begins. Coach Jeff Nygaard (second season) reports that senior middle blocker Andy Benesh powered through "hard-core therapy" the past few months and appears to have overcome lingering back issues.
Freshman Lucas Lossone may crack the roster as the second starting middle, if he can beat out 6-6 sophomore Connor Inlow and 6-8 redshirt freshman Tyler Resnick. Another freshman, lefty Aaron Strange, may displace Jon Rivera at opposite. With Jack Yoder no longer playing volleyball, junior Gert Lisha will contend for the setter's job now that his broken finger has healed. Senior Michael Mullahey and freshman Matt Faraimo are also in the setter mix. Lucas Yoder (Jack Yoder's cousin) will be the OH1. Nygaard calls him a "strong physical specimen and one of the most natural passers" on the USC roster. Six others will compete for OH2, with 6-4 sophomore Blake Markland among the strongest contenders. Maybe the most secure spot belongs to 5-9 senior Matt Douglas, who will start the season at libero.
The Trojans struggled in 2016 but could be 2017's Cinderella team. Coach Nygaard says that he has never been part of a volleyball match that he doesn't believe his team will win.
Photos courtesy USC Athletics.