USC coach Bill Ferguson and several Trojan players participated in the men’s volleyball NCAA Tournament media day on Wednesday.
The No. 2 seed USC will play the No. 3 seed Lewis in the semifinals on Thursday. Check out the transcript from USC’s news conference.
Bill Ferguson, USC coach: We are thrilled to be here and participating. It should be a heckuva weekend of volleyball and I want to congratulate the other teams for being here. I think the guys are ready to go and we had a great day of practice yesterday.
Q: Thoughts on playing Lewis in a fall pre-season match and how theyʼve changed?
BF: We played them in a nightcap after a womenʼs match. We won a best of three. The younger Petty brother (Greg) is more seasoned now. When we saw them in the fall, they ran a pretty standard offense. They made a switch in the past month or so.
Q: Can you talk about your team attending the MPSF final of UCI vs. Stanford?
BF: The guys on the team all sat together. I had our staff taking notes and stats. We were all en masse, watching. It was good to sit back and watch. If that doesnʼt push your buttons, you need to have your pulse checked.
Q: Thoughts on how the at-large process worked out?
BF: I think everyone was cognizant of those final four teams, two wouldnʼt be in the dance. You donʼt think about it during the match, but leading up to it … As you saw in the MPSF quarterfinals, you take care of your match and check out whatʼs going on. It was the first time in a long time where all four of the top seeds advanced in our conference to create the logjam. It was in the back of my mind for sure. You figure the two teams that make it to the finals would have a shot for sure. Afterwards, you start looking back after the fact. We kind of felt good about it. They hadnʼt in any recent history not taken the regular season champion of the MPSF.
Q: Coach, what’s your thoughts on Lewis?
BF: I sent Dan a text message to congratulate him. I do kind of understand the same process he had to go through. He took over a program that had been successful and had fallen on hard times and he has done a steady job of bringing them back. He and I are pretty friendly, so weʼve talked. I was pretty cognizant of the fact that it was a good culmination of a lot of hard work.
Q: What’s your thoughts on the selection system?
BF: I donʼt know if itʼs wrong, but it is what it is. Weʼve got to operate within that system. We have to train and play in that system. When I say that, there were certain things we did last year and this year in how we put our schedule together and how we attacked things. You canʼt always be hot at the right time. Thereʼs got to be something to fall back on. To basically be able to chip away and win the league championship was huge. I donʼt really talk about it with the team, but there are definite benchmarks during the season that we pay attention to and prepare for the possibility that weʼre up for the at-large. We plan for it and try to do the best within the system.
Q: Can you talk about USCʼs rise from a slow start?
BF: Most of our rise, or the streak, that all came about when (Maddison) McKibbin became healthy again. We went into the season knowing weʼd have two opposites that would probably be fairly equal in ability with Maddison and Tanner (Jansen). With the added notion that McKibbin could pass and play on the left and that gave us some flexibility. Maddison sprained his ankle on the first day of practice after Christmas break and sprained it badly. The Pepperdine match at home toward the end of February was the first time he got back on the court with us. Once that happened we had some flexibility. The ability of Maddison to play two positions is big for us. Weʼve had some big matches that we have made changes in that have allowed us to do well. We thought it would happen at the beginning of the season.
Q: What’s your thoughts on UCIʼs Kevin Tillie?
BF: He makes them go. Heʼs a pretty talented kid. We all recruited him. He does everything well. He fits their system very well and has a ton of experience. Heʼs definitely all that heʼs cracked up to be.
Q: Tony, what’s your thoughts on Lewis?
Tony Ciarelli, outside attacker: I played with Jay Petty a couple of years ago. He was on the training team for the U21 World Championships team that went to India. That was a long time ago and heʼs gotten a lot better. The first game that this team played together was against Lewis in the fall. Itʼs kind of cool we get to play them in the postseason.
Q: What was your feelings after finding out USC was selected as the at-large?
TC: Everyone on this team loves volleyball. Whether we were on an 18-game winning streak or the last loss, we all love to practice every day and lift every day. Weʼre always excited to get up there and play.
Q: What’s your thoughts on Micah Christenson?
TC: Iʼve been telling people itʼs pretty amazing what Micah has done this year. Not very many freshmen setters get here… For us, we are pretty young in a lot of spots. Micah hasnʼt just come and been a setter, but heʼs come and been a leader on the court and definitely calmed me down in a few situations. Heʼs done a lot. Itʼs amazing what heʼs done.
Q: What it was like in the time between losing to UCI in the MPSF semis until the time he learned USC received theat-large bid?
Steven Shandrick, middle attacker: It was a strange phase. A mix of emotions. I was optimistic because we put in a lot of hard work and our record showed that after winning the regular season. Most of the guys were staying positive. It was a bitter feeling watching the finals match because we felt we shouldʼve been there and couldʼve been there. The general mood was we were all optimistic. “Thereʼs always that part where youʼre not sure. What happens if UCI wins, what happens if Stanford wins? We were never confident weʼd get it but I would say we were hopeful.
Q: Feelings after finding out USC was selected as the at-large?
SS: I was pumped to get back into the gym and start practicing again. I know weʼre all fired up to get a second chance and take on Lewis in the semifinals.
Q: Thoughts on Micah Christenson?
SS: He had big shoes to fill and we needed him to step up if we wanted any shot at this and Micahʼs done that. Heʼs shown a lot of maturity in all the games and grown up fast. Heʼs been doing a really good job for us and very steady.
Q: What have the upperclassmen told him about playing in the NCAA Championships)
Micah Christenson, setter: Having Tony and Steve and the seniors –itʼs their third Final Four – share that experience is really helpful to me and the entire team. Their leadership and examples have prepared us in a unique way.
Transcript courtesy of USC Sports Information