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Top-ranked Cougars falter at USC

LOS ANGELES — The No. 7-ranked USC men's volleyball team, behind 28 kills from junior All-American opposite hitter Brook Billings, gave No. 1 BYU its first loss of the 2001 season with a 30-26, 23-30, 30-27, 30-18 victory in a Mountain Pacific Sports Federation match on Wednesday in the USC North Gym.

USC, which has won five straight matches in a row, improved to 8-3 both overall and in the MPSF, while the Cougars fell to 10-1 and 6-1.

The Trojans' win avenged a three-game home loss to BYU on Jan. 31.

USC played without head coach Pat Powers, who was with his ill mother. In his place, assistant Turhan Douglas directed the Trojans with the help of assistant Laura Ames.

Billings hit .429 for the match and had eight digs. Teammate Eli Fairfield, a senior outside hitter, added 21 kills while hitting .417 and had a match-high 13 digs.

BYU was led by junior outside hitters, Mike Wall (15 kills) and Joaquin Acosta (12 kills), while senior All-American Scott Bunker managed just seven kills on 20 swings, but added a match-high eight blocks. Troy outhit BYU, .384 to .314, and had eight aces to the Cougars' three.

BYU will take Thursday off, but will return to action on Friday, traveling to 12th-ranked UC Irvine. The Cougars will complete their three-match, four-day road trip on Saturday, taking on No. 2 Pepperdine in Malibu, Calif.