It all comes down to this week for the Long Beach State men’s volleyball team, which held its usual practice Monday morning in the Pyramid, with two exceptions. For one, the borders of the court were still littered with the curtains and tables from Jewels of the Night, Long Beach State’s big fundraiser event held last Saturday night. For another, this week could end with the program’s second-ever NCAA championship, and the first at the school in any sport since 1998.
The top-ranked 49ers will play the winner of Ohio State and UC Irvine on Thursday at 5 p.m. at UCLA in the NCAA Final Four. If they advance they’d play in the NCAA championship game Saturday at 4 p.m., likely against the winner of BYU and UCLA.
“It’s a big week, you can’t pretend it’s not a big week,” said 49ers coach Alan Knipe. “But you hope that you’ve built consistency so that you can have a good week of practice and not get too caught up in the noise.”
After regular practices Monday and Tuesday the team is headed to Westwood Tuesday afternoon, which will allow them to watch the Ohio State/UC Irvine and UCLA/Harvard games that evening. Wednesday evening will be the NCAA’s volleyball banquet, where the National Player of the Year will be named and the All-Americans will be honored.
It was a busy Monday for the 49ers as it was announced that TJ DeFalco, Josh Tuaniga, and Kyle Ensing were all first-team All-Americans. All three also won Off the Block’s awards as the top players in the nation at their positions. In addition, Nick Amado was named a second-team All-American and freshman Simon Anderson was named honorable mention All-American.
The exciting news for 49er fans is that all five will return next season—and DeFalco and Tuaniga are expected to be the top two vote-getters for National Player of the Year as well, an award that DeFalco won last year.
For Knipe, the awards and accolades are nice, but also not the focus of the week.
“I’m not going to say that they don’t matter, they’re really nice and they do matter, they just don’t matter to us right now, for what we’re trying to accomplish as a team,” he said.
That goal is simple—win two more matches and make history.