The Long Beach State men’s volleyball team had a wild weekend in Hawaii at the Big West Tournament, playing in front of crowds of more than 10,000 Rainbow Warrior fans. After defeating UC Santa Barbara in an impressive four-set semifinal on Friday night, Long Beach was bested in a classic five-set championship match by the hosts, falling 25-15, 25-23,22-25, 20-25, 15-8.
It was the third three-hour five-set thriller played by the two teams in an eight-day span, as Long Beach had previously defeated Hawaii twice in the Pyramid the previous Friday and Saturday in front of the largest and third-largest men’s volleyball crowds in Long Beach State history.
“Well it’s gotta go five, doesn’t it?” joked Hawaii head coach Charlie Wade after the match, referencing the two team’s close battles over the last two years. “It’s the fifth one in a row or whatever. These have been classic matches–it’s all a part of the journey.”
It seems likely that this season will end with one of the two teams hoisting the NCAA championship trophy. What remains to be seen is who.
“There hasn’t been this much separation between the top two teams and the rest of the field in a very, very long time,” said national men’s volleyball reporter Vinnie Lopes of Off the Block.
Hawaii’s tournament win earned them the No. 1 seed into the NCAA Tournament, while the defending champion Long Beach State squad earned the No. 2 seed. That means both teams have earned a bye into May 2’s Final Four matches in the Pyramid, where Hawaii will face the winner of USC and Lewis, and Long Beach State will face the winner of Pepperdine and Barton/Princeton. USC/Lewis and Pepperdine vs. Barton/Princeton will be the first NCAA matches in the Pyramid on Tuesday, April 30.
Regardless of how the matches on Tuesday go, it’s obvious that most of the men’s volleyball world is hoping Long Beach State and Hawaii win on Thursday to earn a chance to face each other for the national championship, which will take place in the Pyramid on May 4. The two teams have already had three thrillers between them, and the prospect of a fourth, with an NCAA trophy on the line? That sounds like volleyball heaven.