Pepperdine men’s volleyball team downs USC 

Pepperdine's Cole Rasic (19) and Alex Mrkalj celebrate during the Waves' men's volleyball team's win over USC on March 30. The eight-ranked Waves have downed the 11th-ranked Trojans twice this season. Photo by Jeff Golden

Waves will play in the three-day Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Championships beginning April 17

The Pepperdine men’s volleyball team defeated USC for the second time this season March 30.

The Waves, ranked eighth nationally, beat the 11th-ranked Trojans 3-1 in the Galen Center on USC’s campus. 

Outside hitter Cole Ketrzynski, a graduate student, led Pepperdine with 16 kills and a .464 hitting percentage. Ketrzynski also had six digs and one block. Middle blocker Akin Akinwumi, also a graduate student, tallied 18 kills on a .400 hitting percentage and had three digs and four blocks — including one solo rejection. 

Pepperdine won the first set 25-15, while the Trojans took the second one 25-20. The Waves then won the next two sets 27-25 and 25-19. 

The Waves previously downed USC 3-1 on March 14 on the court at Pepperdine’s Firestone Fieldhouse. Ketrzynski, who played for UCLA as an undergraduate, led Pepperdine in that matchup also. 

The Waves tied the first set at 9 when Akinwumi, redshirt sophomore outside hitter Ryan Barnett, and middle blocker Martin de Chavarria, a graduate student, all shared a block. The Waves then took a six-point lead highlighted by some strong swing of the arm by Barnett. Barnett registered an ace, and Akinwumi and Ketrzynski had kills that along with a Trojans error gave Pepperdine the first-set victory.

USC jumped to an 8-3 lead in the second set and never looked by. They led 19-12 before securing the win despite kills by Akinwumi and redshirt freshman Ethan Watson, a middle blocker. 

The Waves took an 11-6 lead in the third set due to smacks of the volleyball by Akinwumi, Ketrzynski, and graduate student Alex Mrkalj, an outside hitter. Pepperdine then took a 17-12 advantage. Kills by Mrkalj and Watson gave the Waves a 23-20 lead. USC rallied, but a Ketrzynski kill and Trojans error made Pepperdine victorious. 

Points by Watson and Mrkalj helped the Waves jump off to a good start in the fourth set. A block by Akinwumi and Watson gave their team a point lead. Mrkalj then had four kills in five plays as the Waves gained a 17-11 advantage. Points by Akinwumi and Graves cemented Pepperdine’s closing set triumph. 

Watson finished the match with seven kills and five blocks, while Graves had 50 assists, three kills, three digs, and two blocks. Senior libero Trey Cole had 12 digs, and Mrkalj had nine kills with a .562 hitting percentage and four digs. 

The Waves had 60 kills overall on a .400 hitting percentage. The squad also had eight blocks and one ace. 

Pepperdine has a 17-7 record heading into their home contest against The Master’s on Friday at 3 p.m. The Waves play Grand Canyon in Phoenix on April 11 and the next day to close the regular season.

The team will play in the three-day Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Championships in Los Angeles, which begin on April 17.