'Eaters aim for upset

It's as much a clash of styles as collegiate men's volleyball powers when UC Irvine squares off against USC.

The latest meeting, a semifinal in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at the Galen Center, pits the No. 1-ranked Trojans against the No. 2-ranked Anteaters in a rematch of the 2009 NCAA title match won by UCI.

Since UCI's 2009 five-game final conquest in Provo, Utah, USC (22-2) has won four straight matches over the Anteaters (19-11), including a pair of four-game verdicts this season.

This one is more about consequences than comportment, but observers can't help but notice that USC, from its players to its coaching staff, is as demonstratively brash as UCI is collectively reserved.

Neither team will hold back in their bid to advance to Saturday's tournament final against the winner of Thursday's 5 p.m. semifinal between upstarts Long Beach State and UC Santa Barbara.

"I can't wait," UCI junior Carson Clark, an All-American opposite, said after the Anteaters' quarterfinal win over visiting Hawaii on Saturday. "There's no other team I'd rather play."

Clark said he and his fellow Anteaters took offense to an assertion made by USC Coach Bill Ferguson that UCI's recent run of two NCAA titles in the previous four seasons, has come to an end.

The statement was attributed to Ferguson in the latest edition of Volleyball Magazine.

"Nothing motivates me more than that," Clark said of the magazine article.

UCI is led by Clark, fellow senior outside hitters Jordan DuFault and Cory Yoder, as well as senior setter Anthony Spittle.

USC is paced by MPSF Player of the Year Murphy Troy, a senior opposite, as well as senior all-conference setter Riley McKibbin and junior all-conference outside hitter Tony Ciarelli. Troy and Ciarelli are All-Americans.

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