17 Sep

Young players to lead No. 6 ranked team

first_imgFollowing a heartbreaking end in the National Semifinals in 2011, men’s volleyball has reloaded and has the talent to contend for a National Title again.“We’ve got the talent to be good at the end of the year,” USC coach Bill Ferguson said. “But no matter the circumstances, we have to stick to the same formula — improve every day and compete like hell.”Spiked · Senior outside hitter Tony Ciarelli looks to lead the relatively young team this season. Though the Trojans lost three All-Conference players, they are currently ranked sixth. – Carlo Acenas | Daily TrojanWith last year’s playoff loss to UC Santa Barbara, the No. 5 Trojans graduated four starting seniors from Ferguson’s first recruiting class. Starting setter Riley McKibbin and opposite Murphy Troy finished their careers as first-team All-Americans while starting outside hitter Tri Bourne and middle blocker Austin Zahn finished with all-conference honors.Despite the loss of significant leadership, talent and firepower, the Trojans are focusing not on who they lost, but who’s replacing them.The Trojans return starters at outside hitter, middle blocker and libero. Senior outside hitter Tony Ciarelli and senior middle blocker Steven Shandrick, both returning starters, were voted team captains this year. The Trojans will also return sophomore libero Henry Cassiday, who started all of last season.But the spots vacated at setter, opposite, outside hitter and middle blocker were up for grabs throughout the preseason. Since then, Ferguson has settled on a starting lineup featuring two reserves from last year’s team as well as two true freshmen.Freshman Micah Christensen won the starting spot and tallied 35 assists leading to a team .667 hitting average in the season opener against Alberta. The 6-5 Christensen was the headliner of the 2011 recruiting class after starring in a variety of high school, club and international competitions as well as winning Hawaiian State Championships in basketball and volleyball.“Micah’s used to being the focal point of the team. He’s an outstanding teammate and competitor,” Ferguson said. “He has a lot of poise and maturity for his age.”Freshman Robert Feathers won the starting middle blocker spot alongside Shandrick.“Feathers has been the youngest guy on the team because he’s always played up in divisions when he played club,” Ferguson said. “Plus, he’s almost all work ethic and character. If he can’t do something, he’ll kill himself trying.”Redshirt junior Steven Mochalski is slated as the starting outside hitter alongside Ciarelli.“Mochalski will crush any ball, can block and is an effective passer,” Ferguson said.Redshirt sophomore opposite Tanner Jansen won the starting opposite spot after an intense competition with junior opposite Maddison McKibbin until McKibbin sprained his ankle during preseason training.Redshirt junior Jeff Carlson was the backup setter last year and has since been moved to outside hitter. Carlson’s versatile blend of skills and athleticism make him a key reserve as a setter, hitter, defender and server.“Carlson will start contributing very soon,” Ferguson said. “He can help us in a lot of different ways.”Though the leaders and stars of yesterday have moved on, the 2012  men’s volleyball team is still as formidable as ever.last_img read more