National championship rematch for USC

Last year, the USC men's volleyball team — a Mountain Pacific Sports Federation laughingstock in past years — surprised many in Cinderella-ing its way all the way through the MPSF and NCAA tournaments to the national championship.

The Trojans lost, of course, but the point was made.

USC is an underdog no more, ranked No. 1 to start this season. And now, four games in, coach Bill Ferguson's Trojans will get a chance to avenge last year's national championship game loss against No. 3 UC Irvine — tonight, at the Bren Center, against the same Anteaters that have ended their season twice running.

And after last year's five-set thriller in title match, it's safe to say there's no love lost between the two teams.

Actually, you can take it a bit further than that — junior outside hitter Tri Bourne said the Trojans "don't care for the Anteaters too much."

Both teams have dominated their recent opponents after early-season losses. USC beat UCLA in four sets on Wednesday after falling to host Hawaii earlier this month; UCI beat No. 7 Long Beach State and No. 12 UCSD after an opening-night loss to No. 6 BYU.

USC boasts a heavy offensive attack, spearheaded by outside hitters Bourne and Tony Ciarelli, the 2009 National Freshman of the Year Irvine, seeking to become the first repeat champions in men's volleyball since 1998, counters with dynamo opposite Carson Clark. He leads the Anteaters in kills with nearly five per game.

The match starts at 7 p.m.