There is plenty of optimism for the USC players and coaches this preseason — and for good reason after struggling last year.
USC coach Bill Ferguson in an interview with Off the Block earlier this week called first half of his team’s preseason the best start to a training camp since he became the Trojans head coach. In addition, USC despite last season not qualifying for the MPSF Tournament for the first since 2006 returns a majority starters, and several players who missed most of the 2013 season because of injury are now returning to the court healthy.
The Trojans will open their preseason Friday as they play host to the USC Fall Tournament, a two-day event featuring 10 MPSF teams and two MIVA teams.
Check out this Off the Block interview with Ferguson as the coach discusses his team’s preseason, overcoming a difficult 2013 season and the possibility of USC hosting a future NCAA Tournament.
Off the Block: Coach, how’s the preseason being going for your team this fall?
Bill Ferguson: This has been the best preseason we’ve had at USC. As far as everyone being healthy, our team being cohesive and the level play all have combined to make it a very productive preseason. We’re real happy with it.
OTB:Last season your team were beat up with injuries. How nice is it for you to have all your players back healthy and in the gym?
BF: It’s very nice. Obviously Maddison McKibbin and Henry Cassiday were a big piece of what we were planning to do last year and were unable to. Maddison was unable to play the whole year and Henry most of the year. It’s nice having both of them back on the floor for two reasons, their experience and just knowing where to go and where to be in certain situations and their ability. The experience of being out for all or most of last season has been a really good thing for both them. They learned a lot from watching, and I think it helped them understand how much they love volleyball by not being able to play or play at their potential. It’s given them a sense of living in the moment and giving it everything they got.
OTB: Looking at this weekend, you have your an annual preseason event with the USC Fall Tournament. What are you hoping to get out of this tournament for your team?
BF: We basically want to see how different guys play together and the culmination. We want to get a better idea of which group will perform the best in May. We’re very concise that May is a long way away and that something that may work this upcoming weekend may not work in May, but we got to jump the bullet at some point. This is our first chance to. We use this tournament as an evaluation period for how the first half of our fall training has gone. After this tournament, we will go look at film and see where we need to improve individually and as a team.
OTB: Coach, last season was bit of a rough year for USC record-wise. Is that something that you have discussed with your players for motivation or is that something you put in the past? How do you address that moving forward in 2014?
BF: We have meetings with each player individually, and we do that every year regardless of our finish. We talked about the meshing of the personal goals and the team goals. For us, I think everyone understood we were compromised because injuries, but that was not the reason we lost. We talked about maturity for many and the application of the learning process for many. Those were two major issues that we addressed. Quite frankly, I used the analogy that most assistant coaches when they are performing tasks for their head coach they are not only performing the task as well as they can as the head coach asked them to do. They also have another process on their mind of OK, how am I going to do this when I’m a head coach. I don’t think our role players who had to fill-in for those injured had that in mind when they were role players, when they were practicing in the gym. I don’t think they were mindful of OK, I’m a backup, what’s going to happen when I’m called on.
OTB: It came out last week that USC was one of the seven finalists to play host to a men’s volleyball NCAA Tournament between 2015-18. What do you think about the possibility of the Galen Center hosting the event again after it was there in 2012?
BF: We love it. We had a wonderful experience not only hosting the men’s championship but participating in the men’s championship. It was obviously one of the most highly attended championships in history. Obviously a large part of that was the result of two local teams participating in the finals. But, Jose Eskenazi and our marketing department I thought really showed what a first-class, athletic organization the USC athletics department is and how they marketed the event. It was really just a special event that we as USC Trojans are all proud of regardless of our participation or not. It was a first-class event, and it was something that our sport deserved. And if we can have a hand at producing that same experience and product and help forward the sport that would be a great experience for us to have again.