Top USC recruit Christenson to battle in preseason for starting setter

A top freshman recruit will be on the USC roster for the upcoming season.

USC coach Bill Ferguson said Thursday that freshman setter Micah Christenson, the 2011 Honolulu Star-Advertiser Boys Volleyball Player of the Year, will not be redshirted and could be in the starting lineup for the 2012 season.

Christenson will compete against junior Jeff Carlson throughout the preseason for the Trojans’ starting setter position, Ferguson said.

“We’re going to give them a ton of chances,” Ferguson said. “We’ve told them that they will be battling for the setter position. It should go deep into the preseason.”

USC’s new starting setter will replace former All-American Riley McKibbin. McKibbin finished his college career in May after helping lead the Trojans to their second Final Four in the last three years.

Christenson was an all-state high school volleyball and basketball player in Hawaii, and Volleyball Magazine ranked him as one of the top 50 men’s volleyball recruits.


Carlson played in 10 matches last season for the Trojans and primarily came off the bench as a serving specialist. In his only start of the season, Carlson had a match-high 48 assists as USC defeated Harvard in a non-conference match.

Both players also gained international experience this summer.

Christenson was the starting setter for U.S. Men’s Junior National Team at the World Championships in August and helped the United States reach the semifinals for the first time in tournament history. In addition, he finished the international tournament fourth in assist per game average.

Carlson competed at the 2011 World University Games in beach volleyball with his USC teammate and All-American outside attacker Tony Ciarelli. The pair finished in fifth-place — one of the best U.S. finishes at the tournament in recent years

Ferguson said he has been pleased with Christenson’s skill level since the freshman arrived on campus this fall.

“Micah is bigger [than Carlson]. He doesn’t jump as well but is one of those guys that is just a natural,” Ferguson said. “Micah is more of a quite and serious leader than Jeff, and I think both complement each other well.”

One thing that could factor into who starts at setter, Ferguson said, is Carlson’s versatility. Along with the setter position, the coach said he is considering starting Carlson at outside attacker or libero.

“Jeff is a guy that is very skilled at everything,” Ferguson said. “He does everything well. He’s a good blocker and a good hitter and sets well. Jeff is good little competitor, and he is always good at keeping the team fired up and lose. That is a really good thing,”

Both Carlson and Christenson will split time at setter Friday and Saturday as the Trojans open their preseason schedule at home with the USC Fall Invitational.

USC will play five matches during the two-day tournament. Ferguson said Chirstenson will start three of the matches at setter, while Carlson will start two matches at setter and one match at outside attacker.