Some things may have been different on Friday night at Walter Pyramid, but the final result stayed the same for Long Beach State men’s volleyball. The defending national champions debuted their new Taraflex playing surface in the Big West Conference opener while sweeping Cal State Northridge 25-14, 25-14, 28-26.
LBSU (14-0, 1-0) has only lost one set this season, and will travel to CSUN (8-7, 0-1) on Saturday night.
“It was an exciting night,” LBSU coach Alan Knipe said. “It’s the middle of the season but it almost felt like a home opener because of the new floor.”
The Taraflex floor is a mat that sits on top of the basketball court, but is exclusively for volleyball. It is the floor used by national teams around the world.
“It’s an amazing floor to play on,” LBSU senior Kyle Ensing said. “I’ve only been able to play on it a couple of times and having it here is super awesome. It helps our knees and helps us play better.”
Ensing led LBSU with 12 kills while four other players notched five or more kills. Dimitar Kalchev put down a match-high 14 kills for CSUN while trying to lead a comeback in the third set.
“We pride ourselves on being a big time volleyball school and this is huge ringing endorsement to all of our fans, our players and alums that we keep trying to find ways to get better,” Knipe said of the new floor. “The Pyramid is always a great place to play but what an amazing volleyball arena it was tonight— not just a basketball arena with some volleyball lines out there. A huge thank you from us and (the women’s volleyball program) to our athletic department, Andy Fee and President Conoley.”
LBSU was dominant for long stretches on Friday night, and held CSUN to a .000 team hitting percentage in the first set. The Beach finished with 9.5 team blocks. Knipe said his middles Simon Anderson and Nick Amado played very well, but that TJ DeFalco and Louis Richard were key to the team defense on the left side.
“I thought they did a good job getting on their opposite and getting some blocks early and often,” Knipe said. “Blocks can be contagious and it’s been a big emphasis for us in training. When we focus on something, the ability for this team to transfer it to competition is a really special trait that they have.”
Although the season is still young, Knipe said he isn’t saving anything for his squad to execute.
“You’re always trying to develop things in practice that you don’t show, but I don’t believe in the Big West that you can really hold back a lot,” Knipe said. “You play and show everything you are right now. However, we believe that between now and the end of the Big West conference there is still a ton of meat on the bone for this team to get better.”