The Long Beach State men’s volleyball team isn’t perfect anymore, but they’re still invincible at home. The team ran its program-record win streak in the Walter Pyramid to 38 with an impressive sweep of No. 7 UC Irvine on Saturday night, following a four-set win on the road against the Anteaters the night before. Long Beach won a pair of heart-pounding sets in the Pyramid before breaking the Anteaters in an easy third set, 28-26, 26-24, 25-14.
“Offensively we struggled in the first set, but our block and serving bailed us out,” said Long Beach State coach Alan Knipe. “That’s something we talk about a lot. If not every part of the game is working, it’s okay to lean on one element to get us going, and it got significantly better as the night went on. I thought there was also a really good display of grit and fight to get that set when we were down late.”
Long Beach State (21-1) is No. 2 in the nation and will host UC San Diego (7-15) in the Pyramid on Friday before traveling to play the Tritons on Saturday. It’s the last “light” week for the team before the grind begins. After that they have a pair of matches in the Pyramid against No. 1 Hawaii before traveling to the islands for the Big West Tournament. After that, the Pyramid will play host to the NCAA Final Four and national championship match on May 2 and 4.
The team’s impressive win over the Anteaters on Saturday came thanks in large part to another impressive effort from Kyle Ensing, who had 13 kills, three aces, three digs, a block, and an assist in the win.
“The guys did a great job of coming in and being focused during the week,” said Knipe. “We just didn’t really feel like (the loss to USC) was anywhere close to acceptable. The response didn’t surprise me at all.”
Long Beach State was outhit .250 to .105 in the first set and .367 to .333 in the second set. The team was able to bounce back and win both frames thanks to great execution down the stretch. It took them five tries at set point before they put the Anteaters away in the first set, as Ensing pounded a kill down and then Irvine was called on the net the next point. In the second set Long Beach trailed 22-18 and seemed destined for a 1-1 tie before Josh Tuaniga served up a big run and Long Beach closed on a 7-2 clip to take it, finishing on a big block from DeFalco and a kill from Louis Richard.
The team’s middles were firing away, particularly Nick Amado, who had nine kills on 11 swings with no errors (.818 hitting) along with three blocks.
Libero Jordan Molina had five digs.
“We talked this week about giving the first punch instead of receiving it,” said Molina. “We try to respond in a better sense of we’re coming out and giving that first punch and making teams react to us.”