Following two wins against Pacific and Concordia, the No. 8 Trojans ended their regular season with a loss on the road to No. 3 Pepperdine in five sets (18-25, 25-21, 19-25, 25-14, 11-15). USC’s record falls to 16-10 overall and 14-10 in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play. Once the rest of the conference finishes regular-season play, the Trojans will know whether or not they qualify for playoffs.
The loss was the second of the season to the Waves, with the Trojans having fallen 3-1 at home in January.
Freshman outside hitter Lucas Yoder opened the match with two kills and senior opposite hitter Tanner Jansen had one, giving the Trojans a 3-2 lead in the first set. Two service errors by the Trojans kept Pepperdine within one, and two kills by the Waves tied the first set at six. Three more kills by Yoder kept the Trojans within two, while Pepperdine put up two consecutive kills to take a 13-11 lead, forcing a USC timeout.
The Trojans stumbled out of the timeout with two consecutive attack errors, causing USC head coach Bill Ferguson to call another timeout, trailing Pepperdine 11-15. The Waves resumed with another block, and errors by the Trojans allowed the Waves to make a 6-2 run and eventually take a 21-13 lead. The Trojans were unable to stop Pepperdine’s momentum and lost the first set 18-25.
Freshman middle blocker Andy Benesh and junior setter Micah Christenson opened the second set with a block, and kills by Yoder, Jansen and junior middle blocker Robert Feathers, as well as a block by senior outside hitter Madison McKibbin, gave the Trojans a 9-7 lead. An ace by Christenson and two kills by Yoder extended USC’s lead to 16-11 and forced a Pepperdine timeout. A kill by Yoder and three consecutive errors by Pepperdine gave the Trojans a 20-12 lead. Pepperdine made a small run, but another kill by Yoder and one from McKibbin kept the Trojans ahead 23-20. A kill by Yoder set up set point for the Trojans and a kill by Benesh ended the set 25-21 in favor of the Trojans and tied the match at one set apiece.
The third set opened with both sides splitting points, but kills by Yoder and Feathers gave the Trojans an 8-5 lead. The Waves again tied the set, this time at 10 apiece, but an error by the Trojans and kills by the Waves gave Pepperdine a 13-10 lead. Kills by Benesh, Jansen, Christenson and redshirt junior outside hitter Joey Booth, as well as blocks by Booth and Feathers, kept the Trojans within four, despite Pepperdine’s defensive spree, giving the Waves a 20-16 lead. The Trojans, however, had no answer to Pepperdine’s defense and lost the third set 19-25.
Feathers opened the set with a kill and a block by Yoder gave the Trojans an early 4-1 lead in a must-win fourth set. A kill by Benesh and a net violation against Pepperdine extended the Trojans’ lead to 6-2. Two kills each from Yoder, Booth and junior outside hitter Cristian Rivera kept the Trojans ahead 13-8. Kills from Yoder, Benesh and Booth, and two errors by the Waves, extended USC’s lead to 21-10. A kill by Rivera followed by a Pepperdine error set up set point for the Trojans and a kill by Booth won the set for the Trojans, 25-14, to force a fifth set.
Despite hitting only .107 in the first set, the Trojans finished the crucial fourth set, hitting .577 with 16 kills and only one error.
The final set began like the third, with each team splitting points until Pepperdine was able to take a 5-3 lead. Kills by Benesh, Yoder and Rivera kept the Trojans in the game, though the Waves pulled away to a 12-8 lead. Kills by Benesh, Rivera and Booth cut Pepperdine’s lead to 14-11 and a service error by USC ended the match with a Pepperdine win in the fifth set, 15-11.
Overall, Yoder led all players with 19 kills throughout the match, while senior libero Henry Cassiday led the way with 15 digs. Christenson was the only Trojan to record a service ace on the day.
The Trojans host men’s volleyball alumni on Saturday at 7 p.m. in the Galen Center for the team’s annual alumni match.