The Long Beach Sate men’s volleyball team started off its postseason journey with a bang, sweeping CSU Northridge in the Big West Tournament semifinals. The 49ers downed the Matadors 25-23, 25-13, 25-17.
Long Beach State will now face Hawaii at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Big West Championship, with a guaranteed berth in the NCAA Tournament on the line. The two teams met twice last weekend, a split with both matches going five sets.
“We’re looking forward to being in the first ever Big West championship match,” said 49ers coach Alan Knipe.
In the 49ers’ match against Northridge it looked like the team’s serve might hamper them. Long Beach committed seven service errors in the first set which, along with five hitting errors, gifted CSUN half of its points. After that, though, the 49ers dialed the serve in and used the end-line attack to disrupt everything that CSUN wanted to do.
“We didn’t serve well in the first 20 points but I thought we served great over the whole match,” said Knipe.
The 49ers ended up with 10 aces to 17 service errors. Knipe always measures his team’s serve more in how it disrupts an opponent’s offense than by how many aces they rack up.
CSUN coach Jeff Campbell acknowledged the problem the 49ers’ serve posed.
“They served us really well and it affected every part of our game,” he said. “It really came down to pass and serve—when the pass is off the net the setter has to run and scramble. It’s a 30 by 30 court, when those serves are hitting within six inches of the line at 65-70 miles per hour it’s pretty effective.”
The 49ers were led by Kyle Ensing’s 10 kills and Josh Tuaniga’s 27 assists and two aces. TJ DeFalco had nine kills, four aces, and two blocks. Bjarne Huus had eight kills on just 13 swings. Tuaniga admitted that the 49ers were happy to have a rematch with Hawaii after the Rainbow Warriors handed Long Beach their first defeat last weekend.
“We were prepped for either team but that loss was something we wanted to get back,” he said. “It’s a little bit of a fire under us.”