In the fifth set, in the final match of the regular season, the Long Beach State men’s volleyball team finally lost. The 49ers had won their first 24 matches of the season, the best start in program history and the longest win streak in program history.
But the night after an epic five-set battle in front of 5,000 fans in Hawaii, the 49ers were back at it, and once again caught in a fifth-set battle with the Rainbow Warriors.
This time, late Saturday evening (around 1 a.m. Long Beach time) the 49ers fell, 25-21, 22-25, 23-25, 25-20, 15-11.
“We played really hard, I know that,” said 49ers coach Alan Knipe. “Execution-wise we’re going to go back and watch the match and I have a feeling we’ll be kicking ourselves a little bit.”
Hawaii desperately needed the win—they’re likely now in the driver’s seat for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament should they not win the Big West Tournament, and they earned the No. 2 seed in the tournament with the victory, which comes with a quarterfinal bye. They were flying around the court diving for balls and ended up out-digging Long Beach State 49-34.
“There’s no doubt, they threw caution to the wind with their serving and they laid out on every play,” said Knipe. “We had a huge effort too but they definitely had a purpose.”
A possible bid for rare history comes to a close with the loss. Long Beach State could have become the first team since UCLA in 1984 to go undefeated for an entire season, and just the second college ever to do it. The 49ers now turn their attention to the postseason, where the true goal of their season has always loomed: a national title.
The 49ers will need to win four matches to make it happen. They host the Big West Tournament this week with the semifinals on Friday and the Finals on Saturday. Two weeks after that will be the NCAA Tournament at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion.
The 49ers will host their semifinal in the Pyramid at 7:30 p.m. Friday evening.
“We hope it will be a big crowd, I hope the community will come out in droves,” said Knipe.