Last year the Long Beach State men’s volleyball team had a layoff of nearly two weeks between winning a conference championship and playing in the NCAA Final Four against BYU. The result was a shocking sweep loss to the Cougars, one the 49ers’ coaches privately felt was in part due to their team being cold.
This year the 49ers face a similar layoff. They beat Hawaii last Saturday in the Big West championship and won’t play again until Thursday, when they’ll see the winner of Tuesday evening’s match between UC Irvine and Ohio State. In an effort to make sure the team doesn’t come out stiff, the 49ers coaches decided to hold a full-speed scrimmage on Friday morning in the Gold Mine, complete with scoreboard, officials, and game music.
The match pitched the 49ers starters (wearing black jerseys) against their scrappy, talented backups (wearing white). The backups took the first set and sparked an emotional response in the starters, who came back to win 20-25, 25-17, 25-23, 26-24.
“It doesn’t surprise me that they came out with a ton of energy,” said 49ers coach Alan Knipe. “They forced us into everything we wanted to get out of today.”
The fourth set was tight as well, with the starters trailing 21-19 before ultimately tying it at 24 and then winning on a pair of kills.
The 49ers itinerary next week for championship week has come together. On Monday and Tuesday the team will hold regular practices in the Pyramid, then depart for UCLA and Pauley Pavilion after Tuesday’s practice. That will allow them to watch the Irvine/Ohio State match that evening. The team will practice at UCLA Wednesday, with their Final Four match taking place Thursday at 5 p.m. Should they advance, the championship would be Saturday at 4 p.m.