The Long Beach State men’s volleyball team earned the No. 1 seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament, which will be held May 1-5 at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion. The 49ers won the Big West regular season and conference championships and have been ranked No. 1 in the nation since very early in the season. With a record of 26-1, the 49ers are the only team in the seven-team field that has fewer than five losses.
The team gathered at Legends Sunday morning to watch the NCAA selection show, where they learned that they will face the winner of UC Irvine and Ohio State/King in a Final Four match on Thursday, May 3 at 5 p.m.
The 49ers were also the top seed in last year’s tournament but fell to BYU in the semis.
“What’s good about our team is we have a decent number of guys who’ve been through this process,” said 49ers coach Alan Knipe. “We had a weekend in Hawaii with two five-game matches that gave us a nice late season reset. We’re just trying to find ways to get better.”
The team couldn’t have looked much better in a pair of sweeps at the Big West Tournament in the Pyramid over the weekend, quickly dispatching Northridge and the same Hawaii team that took them to five sets twice the previous weekend. The only one who saw that coming was university president Jane Close Conoley, who actually called the back-to-back sweeps of Northridge and Hawaii earlier in the week.
The other teams making the field were BYU, UCLA, UC Irvine, Harvard, Ohio State, and King. UCLA and Irvine got the two at-large bids, with the other teams all qualifying automatically as conference champions.
It was a surprise to all gathered at Legends that Irvine made it in over Hawaii, given that the Rainbow Warriors went 2-1 against the Anteaters, including a win just 36 hours before the bracket release. Hawaii was also the only team to beat Long Beach State this year.
“I’m not shocked, I was leaning towards Hawaii but we’ve been on both ends of those decisions and they’re painful,” said Knipe.
Assuming the defending national champion Buckeyes top King this week in Columbus, Irvine and Ohio State would play on May 1 for the right to meet Long Beach State in the semis. The 49ers didn’t play the Buckeyes this year but beat the Anteaters twice, one in the Pyramid in five sets and once in Irvine in four.
On the other side of the bracket UCLA and Harvard will play May 1, most likely setting up an MPSF championship rematch between BYU and the Bruins, with UCLA having the advantage of playing on their home court.
The national championship will be on May 5 at 4 p.m.
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