Eight moments that led to USC earning final at-large bid

Photo by Jonathan Bates

They may have seemed insignificant at the time but there are several moments throughout the season that contributed to USC edging out UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara for the final at-large to the NCAA Tournament.

Check out the eight moments from this season that if things went differently could have led to a different result in the at-large bid race.

Jan. 23: Unranked USC beats UC Irvine

In what was preserved as an early-season upset, USC defeated then-No. 3/4 UC Irvine in four games at the Galen Center. The Trojans hit .345 in the victory and three players finished with double-digit kills, including outside attacker Jack Wyett who had a match-high 19 kills. This victory occurred four days after USC lost to Barton — the team’s first loss in program history to a ConfCarolinas school. In addition, UC Irvine entered winning six of its first seven matches with three of those victories coming against top-10 ranked teams. This victory eventually kept USC even with UC Irvine in the head-to-head selection criteria category. It also provided the Trojans with a win against a team in the top five of the RPI.

March 2: Hawai’i completes series sweep of UC Irvine

No. 2/2 Hawai’i out-hit No. 3/3 UC Irvine .529 to .155 in a three-game road victory to complete the two-match series sweep. Both of those home losses hurt the Anteaters in several selection criteria categories, including home record and record against teams under NCAA Tournament consideration. While the matches did help UC Irvine’s strength of schedule, they were two more losses in a team in the RPI top five. UC Irvine entered this conference series at 12-2 and on a six-match winning streak. These losses, though, started a stretch of UC Irvine losing eight of nine matches.


March 9: USC survives upset scare against Ohio State

Opposite Ryan Moss had a match-high 22 kills as USC rallied from a one-game deficit to beat Ohio State in five games. The comeback prevented USC from suffering a loss to a team not ranked in the top 15 of the RPI. It also was the second consecutive non-conference match the Trojans won in five games during that weekend. Moss finished with a combined 45 kills that weekend in both the five-game victories against Ohio State and Penn State.

March 13: Concordia-Irvine upsets UC Irvine

No. 5/5 UC irvine with multiple starters out of the lineup because of injuries suffered a three-game road loss to Concordia-Irvine in a mid-week non-conference match. This was UC Irvine’s only loss to a team outside of the top 15 in the RPI. However, USC finished the season undefeated against teams not ranked in the RPI top 15.

March 23: USC ends Long Beach State’s undefeated season

Setter Chris Hall guided the offense to a .493 attack percentage as USC swept previous undefeated Long Beach State at the historic North Gym. With this victory, the Trojans improved their status in the selection committee criteria category of record versus teams under NCAA Tournament consideration and remained undefeated at home. USC also finished the regular season and conference tournament as the only program to beat the top-two NCAA Tournament seeds Long Beach State and Hawai’i, excluding those two schools’ head-to-head matches.

April 6: USC rallies to beat rival UCLA

USC committed one attack error and hit .500 in the decisive fifth game as it defeated its cross-town rival UCLA to conclude the regular season. The Trojans faced a one-game deficit following an 11-point loss in the third game but rallied to secure the home victory. This comeback provided USC with another victory against a top-10 ranked team in the RPI and another victory in the teams under NCAA Tournament consideration selection criteria category.

April 13: UC Irvine beats UC Santa Barbara again

No. 9/9 UC Irvine had at least a .375 attack percentage in all four games as it defeated No. 3/3 UC Santa Barbara to complete the two-match series sweep. Outside attacker Joel Schneidmiller returning to the court after missing a month of the season with an injury had a combined 31 kills and more than a .400 attack percentage in the two conference victories. These losses also kept UC Santa Barbara winless against teams in the RPI top five and dropped the Gauchos to 2-9 versus teams under NCAA Tournament consideration.

April 18: USC beats UCLA in MPSF Tournament

Outside attacker Jack Wyett had a match-high 21 kills as USC defeated UCLA in the MPSF Tournament semifinals. With this victory, the Trojans matched UC Irvine with six wins in the selection criteria category of record versus teams under NCAA Tournament consideration.