AUSTIN, Texas — One of many pillars of First Level Volleyball Basis is introducing the very best collegiate gamers to youth gamers. The annual First Level Collegiate Problem serves because the centerpiece for that endeavor, and followers in attendance for the occasion’s opening match Friday had been handled to 2 gamers on each ends of the spectrum: One a longtime All-American, and one a freshman who has the makings of a future celebrity.
No. 13 USC of the MPSF gained 21-25, 25-23, 25-19, 25-21 and raised its report to 5-0 by defeating No. 14 Ball State (7-3) of the MIVA behind Wes Smith, 6-foot-10 freshman center from Encinitas, California, who has the physique of a robust security.
Ball State had some excellent news regardless of the loss, the return of 6-6 junior outdoors hitter Tinaishe Ndvazocheva. The native of Zimbabwe and 2023 honorable-mention AVCA All-American missed the Cardinals’ first 9 matches for undisclosed causes.
Saturday within the Austin Conference Heart, Ohio State performs USC at 1:30 Central, Stanford performs Ball State at 4 and UCLA performs Penn State at 6:30.
Smith, the cornerstone of a extremely touted USC freshman class, had 13 kills, hitting .579, and 4 blocks and a dig. Fellow freshman Caleb Blanchette, a 6-5 setter from Brentwood, Tennesssee, dished out 38 assists and had two blocks and three digs.
Ninth-year USC coach Jeff Nygaard stated Smith exhibits one thing completely different each time he steps on the court docket.
“He’s clearly an enormous, bodily presence,” Nygaard stated. “He’s any individual that the opposite workforce has to concentrate to. If our ball management places us in a scenario the place we are able to use him, different groups’ block has to concentrate to him.
“ … However now he’s including relentless defensive effort. He’s digging balls, he’s enjoying balls out of the web, he’s point-scoring from the service line. He’s studying and including volleyball worth at each flip. He simply continues to get higher and higher each day.”
And, to make sure, Smith has loads of assist. The Trojans hit a tidy .317, and a wide range of gamers acquired in on the enjoyable. Sophomore outdoors hitter Dillon Klein had 11 kills, an help, an ace, seven digs and three blocks. Senior center Kyle Paulson contributed 9 kills and eight blocks, one solo, and junior reverse Jack Deuchar additionally had 9 kills, three blocks and 7 digs.
USC held a 15-9 blocks benefit.
“We acquired some warmth from the center,” he stated. “We had been capable of finding them, they usually acquired the job carried out for us, and I beloved that a part of the sport.”
What Nygaard didn’t love was the primary set. Ball State, the Trojans’ hardest opponent so far, acquired forward by as many as 5 within the first set, and although USC rallied to tie the rating at 20-20, The Cardinals took 5 of the ultimate six factors.
USC recovered after that, and Nygaard was happy that his workforce acquired stronger because the match wore on.
“I assumed their (Ball State’s) recreation, the fashion they performed was one thing we weren’t ready for or we needed to adapt to,” Nygaard stated. “We needed to make some blocking changes, which our guys responded to, executed at a excessive degree and we performed some gritty volleyball.
“It provides us confidence that we are able to see a workforce that we would not know the whole lot they do or we are able to go in and simply have an open thoughts after which actually slender into, ‘Oh, that is what they’re attempting to do.’ Gaining confidence that the coaches could make game-time choices and the blokes can go on the market and know what to do in actual time and browse and react to the sport, that’s an actual good factor to have.”
USC might need been the winner, however Ndavazocheva was the star of the present, getting 23 kills (hitting .326) to go along with all six of Ball State’s aces, two blocks and 5 digs. He completed off USC within the first set with kills on two of the ultimate three factors, then helped the Cardinals get again into the third set with three consecutive aces to shrink a four-point deficit to 18-17.
“I believe he opens up the court docket lots,” coach Donan Cruz stated. “I assumed USC did an excellent job sort of beginning to key on him within the second a part of the match. However he’s so dynamic you could get him balls in numerous conditions, and he does an excellent job scoring.”
Mentioned Ndavazocheva: “(My recreation) has improved lots … Within the USA, they’re so good at educating expertise. My coach, Donan, is so good at being particular with ability: hip actions, chin actions in passing. I didn’t know something about that. So I can say the ability side has actually improved.”
Sophomore outdoors hitter Patrick Rogers contributed 11 kills, however 10 errors, an help, a block and eight digs.
“We struggled to make good performs on the proper time,” Cruz stated. “Small, little errors in set two that I assumed might have modified the entire momentum, and if we win set 2, perhaps we’re out of there in three.
“As a substitute, we give USC an opportunity to sort of construct some momentum. And kudos to them. They sort of rode that wave of momentum and didn’t look again.”
Nonetheless, Cruz noticed lots that inspired him, and he hopes extra of these traits present up in Saturday’s match in opposition to Stanford.
“Even with that, which I might perhaps grade our volleyball a ‘C’ at finest at this time, and we solely had an eight-point (mixture) differential,” Cruz stated. “That workforce performed certainly one of its higher matches, I believe, and we solely misplaced in complete factors by eight. That’s acquired to be our constructive there.”