The No. 1 ranked Trojans now face No. 2 UC-Irvine for the fourth time this season. "The pressure is on Irvine," said USC Head Coach Bill Ferguson, "they were the team that was picked to finish at the top of the league at the beginning of the year."
Starting two freshmen, the Trojans were picked to finish fifth in the first AVCA Coaches Poll of the season.
UC-Irvine stunned USC just last Thursday, in the MPSF Tournament semifinal at the Galen Center. The Trojans were up 2-0 before letting Irvine win the next three sets.
Ferguson said the fans are in for a treat come Saturday's match, "The first time we played (UC-Irvine), I thought it was one of their best performances and our worst. Conversely it happened several weeks ago. Then you've seen it even out a bit."
On Saturday, there is no doubt the Trojans want to finish on top of their foes to the south. "There's definitely a rivalry here," said All-American senior Steven Shandrick, "I can't even count the number of times we've played this team."
USC is lead by AVCA Player of the Year and All-American Tony Ciarelli. Ciarelli had a match-high 18 kills and 10 digs in the Trojans' semifinal win.
"It's actually special to be here," said Ciarelli about being in the title match. "I'm definitely not satisfied. I've been here twice. Getting to the Final Four is a thrice in a lifetime thing. Winning a National Championship would be a once in a lifetime thing."
The Trojans last National Championship was in 1990.
This is the first time in Men's Volleyball NCAA Championship history that USC is hosting.
First serve of the championship match is 7 p.m. Saturday at the Galen Center.
Trojans Playing for National Title
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