Billy Fauntleroy, Cole Paxson Set Career Highs; No. 9 Grand Canyon Men's Volleyball Beats USC
Despite a career-high 31 kills by USC's Billy Fauntleroy and a career-best 19 digs by teammate Cole Paxson, the No. 9-ranked Grand Canyon men's volleyball team held on to defeat the host Trojans for the second consecutive night, this time 33-31, 25-18, 22-25, 17-25, 15-11, on Saturday (April 10) in the Galen Center in a Mountain Pacific Sports Federation match that was Troy's final regular season contest of 2021.
Grand Canyon improved to 6-10 overall and in the MPSF, while USC fell to 5-12 overall and in the MPSF. On Friday (April 9), GCU beat the Trojans in 3 sets in the Galen Center.
USC now awaits its seed position and quarterfinals opponent in the upcoming MPSF Tournament at BYU on April 22-24. Depending on the outcome of Concordia's 2 matches next week at Grand Canyon and as the MPSF remaining schedule currently stands, USC will either be the fifth seed and play fourth-seeded Grand Canyon or the Trojans will be the sixth seed and play third seed Pepperdine. Host BYU has already clinched the top seed and a bye in the quarterfinals.
Fauntleroy's 31 kills were the most by an MPSF player this season and the most by a Trojan since Lucas Yoder's 33 in 2017 versus Penn State. He was 5 kills shy of tying the USC rally scoring era record of 36 set by Brook Billings in 2002 versus Pacific.
Paxson's 19 digs were the most by an MPSF player in 2021 and the most by a Trojan since Micah Christenson's 19 in 2015 versus UCLA. He was 2 digs shy of tying the USC rally scoring era record of 21 set by Henry Cassiday in 2014 versus Pepperdine.
Fauntleroy also had 8 digs in the match. Teammate Vecas Lewin had 14 kills while hitting .619 and added 4 blocks, Chris Hall had 11 digs and Noah Franklin had 6 digs, 3 blocks and 5 kills.
Christian Janke led Grand Canyon with 18 kills (hitting .412) and had 8 digs and 3 blocks, Hugo Fischer had 12 kills and 3 blocks, Kyle Thompson had 11 kills (hitting .588) and 4 blocks, Ian McLain had 7 kills (hitting .417) and 4 blocks, Heath Hughes had 17 digs and Trevor Weary had 7 digs, 4 blocks and 5 kills.
Grand Canyon hit .299 to USC's .219 and had more blocks (12.5 to 6.5). The Trojans got more digs (57 to 50) and aces (7 to 2).
In the first set, USC went on a 5-point run to forge a 10-9 lead and it stayed tight until the Trojans tallied 4 out of 5 points to go up 23-20 (and then they were serving for the set at 24-22), but GCU tied it at 24-24 before the Lopes scored the set's final 3 points in overtime despite USC's 5.5 blocks in the set.
Grand Canyon slowly moved out to an 8-5 lead in the second set and the Trojans could not catch up as the Lopes hit .522 in the set.
GCU held a 9-6 edge in the third set but USC tied it at 10-10 and then the set stayed close until Troy went ahead 16-14, a lead it never surrendered.
USC used a 3-0 run to open a 9-6 lead in the fourth set and slowly pulled away while hitting .615 in the set.
In the final set, USC scored the first 2 points, GCU got the next 4, USC returned the favor with the next 4, then GCU tied it at 7-7 and the set seesawed until 4 unanswered points by the Lopes gave them a 12-9 lead, all the cushion they needed to hold off the Trojans
After the match, USC's 7 seniors were saluted: Fauntleroy, Paxson, Hall, Lewin, Franklin, Clay Dickinson and Kyle Gear. All but Gear, who opted out of the 2021 season, started the match against Grand Canyon.