Opponents and fans will get their first look at a rebuilt USC team this weekend.
After losing three All-Americans from a team that reached the Final Four last season, the Trojans will open their preseason Friday at home with the USC Fall Invitational.
USC coach Bill Ferguson said Thursday that he expects to use multiple lineups in the Trojans’ five matches during the two-day preseason tournament at the Galen Center Pavilion.
“We’ve got a lot of questions,” Ferguson said. “I’m excited about the guys we have, and the guys are going to make this a competitive team. We are just going to need to figure out who will be [on the court] and where they will be on the court.”
USC last season became the first team since 1995 to be ranked No. 1 throughout the entire regular season but lost in the NCAA Tournament semifinals. The Trojans also had three seniors named All-Americans last year — setter Riley McKibbin, outside attacker Tri Bourne and outside attacker Murphy Troy, the 2011 National Player of the Year.
Ferguson said several backup players from last year’s USC team who will get significant playing time in the preseason will be setter Jeff Carlson, outside attacker Maddison McKibbin and outside attacker Steven Mochalski.
Carlson will compete with freshman recruit Micah Christenson for the starting setter position throughout the preseason. He also will be used at outside attacker this weekend and could be a starting outside attacker for upcoming season, Ferguson said.
Along with these position battles, Ferguson said All-American outside attacker Tony Ciarelli will see limited playing time this weekend because of the senior’s upcoming schedule.
Ciarelli last week was one of four college players named to the U.S. Men’s Pan American Games Team. The team will compete in the international tournament later this month.
Ferguson said he has been impressed with Ciarelli this fall and expects him to excel during the regular season.
“Tony has looked unbelievable this fall and he has added another notch to his game,” Ferguson said.
USC’s five matches at the USC Fall Invitational includes playing Lewis in the tournament’s spotlight match. The USC-Lewis match will be played immediately following the No. 3 USC women’s volleyball team’s home match against No. 16 Oregon on Friday at the Galen Center Arena.
Six of the eight teams participating in the USC Fall Invitational finished last season nationally ranked in the top 15 coaches poll — USC, Long Beach State, Stanford, UCLA, Lewis and Pacific. Cal Baptist, which is transitioning to Division II after winning the 2011 NAIA championship, and Cal State Northridge will also compete in the tournament.
Each match in this preseason tournament will be a best-of-three games, instead of the typical best-of-five game matches played during the regular season.
If a team at the USC Fall Invitational sweeps a match in two games, both head coaches will have the option of playing an additional third game.
USC Fall Invitational schedule
5 p.m. UCLA vs. Cal Baptist
5 p.m. USC vs. Long Beach State
6:45 p.m. Lewis vs. Cal State Northridge
6:45 p.m. UCLA vs. Long Beach State
8:30 p.m. Cal State Northridge vs. Cal Baptist
9 p.m. USC vs. Lewis*
8 a.m. UCLA vs. Pacific
8 a.m. Long Beach State vs. Stanford
8 a.m. Lewis vs. Cal Baptist
9:45 a.m. USC vs. Cal State Norhtridge
9:45 a.m. Pacific vs. Cal Baptist
11:15 a.m. USC vs. Pacific
11:15 a.m. Lewis vs. Stanford
1 p.m. UCLA vs. Cal State Northridge
1 p.m. Long Beach State vs. Cal Baptist
2:45 p.m. USC vs. UCLA
2:45 p.m. Lewis vs. Long Beach State
2:45 p.m. Cal State Northridge vs. Stanford
4:15 p.m. Cal State Northirdge vs. Pacific
4:15 p.m. Cal Baptist vs. Stanford
6 p.m. Lewis vs. Pacific
6 p.m. UCLA vs. Long Beach State
*Match to be played immediately following the USC-Oregon women’s volleyball match in the Galen Center Arena
All other matches to played in the Galen Center Pavilion