Summer workouts, fall practices, a long and grinding season: it’s all led to this. The Long Beach State men’s volleyball team has a chance at history today as the 49ers face UCLA in the NCAA championship at 4 p.m. at Pauley Pavilion. The match will be televised on ESPN 2.
“It’s down to two teams,” said 49ers coach Alan Knipe at Friday’s press conference. “This is what you train all year for and we’ve talked about our process to getting to this point since the very first days of fall.”
Standing between the 49ers and their school’s first NCAA championship since 1998 is a university that has won more NCAA titles than any other in the nation. UCLA has gone down in defeat to LBSU twice this year already, but Knipe warned against taking that too much into account.
For one thing, the UCLA starting lineups has changed and the Bruins are a much-improved team. For another, the Bruins lost to BYU two weeks ago in a four-setter only to beat the Cougars on Thursday in four sets. Head coach John Speraw has shown his team knows how to adjust to an opponent.
The match will pit two coaches who know their programs’ histories well—Knipe and Speraw are both coaching at their alma maters. Knipe was a member of the last 49ers men’s volleyball team to win an NCAA title, back in 1991.
The two best setters in the nation will also be on the floor, with LBSU’s Josh Tuaniga having recently been named National Player of the Year, and UCLA’s Micah Ma’a getting the other first-team All-American nod.
Enjoy some of our coverage of the team from throughout the season, and follow @562sports for courtside updates.