The men’s volleyball team hit its first roadblock last week with a tough loss at the hands of the Pepperdine Waves. Still, there’s plenty of optimism around the program going forward this season. The Trojans will get a chance to rebound against Long Beach State today in what should be another highly contested Mountain Pacific Sports Federation conference matchup.Stepping up · Freshman Lucas Yoder has 66 kills to lead the Trojans. Yoder has started all four games for the team this year. – Ralf Cheung | Daily TrojanThe Trojans (3-1, 2-1 MPSF) came into the Galen Center last Thursday night, Jan. 16, looking to stay unbeaten in the early season after wins over Loyola-Chicago, UC San Diego and UC Irvine. The Trojans, however fell to the Waves (3-0, 3-0) in four sets by a score of 26-28, 25-22, 25-22, 26-24.“I was disappointed by the result,” starting junior setter Micah Christenson said. “But I’m still feeling good about the season moving forward.”“I’m happy that it’s still early in the season,” Christenson said after the game. “We have a lot of things to get better at but we also have a lot of positives to take from this match. Pepperdine’s a very good team, very well-coached and hats off to them. They dug the ball and blocked the ball very well tonight.”USC head coach Bill Ferguson added to Christenson’s points.“The team did not look as good as it usually does defensively,” Ferguson said. “We definitely weren’t at our best.”Ferguson also praised his opponent’s play. “Pepperdine was playing great,” the eighth-year coach said. “There were just too many defensive plays that we normally make that we didn’t make tonight. Digs, balls that are hit near us that we get all the time and we just weren’t there.”He added that the team didn’t react very well after losing big points.“We left a lot of points out on the court,” Ferguson said. “I thought we got out of sorts a little bit and we had some plays we normally make that just wasn’t happening for us and I think we were letting that get to us. I think we got too frustrated. If we would lose a big point we would get frustrated rather than move on to the next play and it’s a good learning experience for us. We have that experience and we can learn from it, and that’s the cool thing.”Christenson agreed that given the experience Pepperdine has over the Trojans, a relatively young team with several freshmen cracking the starting roster, it might some time before USC reaches its full potential.“They’ve had that core for three years, so they don’t have any time lost getting to know each other,” he said. “We are a new team and it’s very positive that we’re scaring good teams and beating good teams with the short amount of time that we’ve had to learn each other.”Christenson had 50 assists on the night as well as two service aces. Senior libero Henry Cassiday led the team with 21 digs. Freshman outside hitter Lucas Yoder led the team with 16 kills along with nine errors, junior middle blocker Robert Feathers had 10 kills and three errors and freshman middle blocker Andy Benesh had nine kills with one error.Even though redshirt senior Maddison McKibbin has gotten most of the starts at opposite this year, junior Cristian Rivera got the starting nod there and McKibbin spelled him later in the match. Yoder started along with sophomore Alex Slaught on the outside, though redshirt freshman Christopher Orenic substituted in for Slaught late in the match. McKibbin finished with three kills and an error, Rivera had seven kills and seven errors, Slaught had six kills and five errors, while Orenic had three kills with two errors.“We have a ton of depth,” Ferguson said, who at times will stick with his starting lineup for the entire game but used much more of the bench against Pepperdine. “We’re going to use that depth to our advantage.”In addition to the tough early competition, Ferguson said the team’s travel schedule has been relatively hectic early on in the season but that the team should get into more of a normal routine as the year goes on. The Trojans began their season with a road trip two weeks ago to Chicago to play Loyola-Chicago, then hosted UC Irvine last Tuesday before the Pepperdine game last Thursday. After today’s game against Long Beach State, the team travels to Cal State Northridge on Friday.“We’re back to a bit of a normal schedule for us where we’re either Wednesday/Friday or Thursday/Saturday and I think that’ll help us,” he said. “We get a couple of days off, we’ve had a funky schedule with a Tuesday game and coming back from Chicago on a Monday the previous week so now we’re back to normal.”Ferguson said that today’s game should be another competitive conference match, particularly in the middle of the court where Long Beach State likes to attack from. The Trojans sit at fourth in the nation, while Long Beach State (3-2, 2-2) is ranked fifth in the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll released Monday. Pepperdine jumped to the top spot in the poll after its win against USC.“They’re very outside hitter-oriented,” Ferguson said. “Their middles hit right next to the setter and they always have a hitter coming over the middle. It’s a back row outside hitter coming down the middle. Taylor Crabb was the National Player of the Year last year and he’s one of those outside hitters. Dalton Ammerman is their other outside and they really make things go.”The Trojans will face Long Beach State tonight at 7 p.m.