It was clear all season long that defending national champion Long Beach State and Hawaii were the two best men’s volleyball teams in the country. The two teams met at the end of the regular season and in the Big West Tournament championship and all three meetings produced the same result: five-set classics. All three matches were won by the home team with Long Beach winning two and Hawaii winning one, Long Beach winning eight sets and Hawaii winning seven, and Hawaii winning 308 points to Long Beach State’s 297.
Long Beach lost two matches this year, with one coming to Hawaii, and the Rainbow Warriors lost two matches this year, both to Long Beach.
“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.
The match will tip off at 5 p.m. in the Walter Pyramid and will be streamed online as well as broadcast on ESPN 2. Tickets are sold out and going for as much as $350 on the resale market, but Long Beach State will host a tailgate and watch party beginning at 3 p.m. on the lawn behind the Pyramid.
This will be the first time in history that two Big West programs meet for a national championship, one of several historic notes about the highly-anticipated meeting.
“Long Beach is historically one of the best collegiate teams ever, I don’t think there’s any denying that,” said Hawaii coach Charlie Wade of his opponent. “They have two guys on the senior national team while still in college, I don’t think that’s ever happened before.”
“Both programs are very similar in the talent they have on the floor and the competitive drive within the athletes running the show,” said Long Beach State coach Alan Knipe. “For the volleyball world this is probably the matchup everybody wanted to see. This was kind of the perfect storm and it should be a match for the ages. That’s what we’re preparing for.”
Seven of the 10 first-team All-Americans in the NCAA will be on the floor for the match, with Hawaii earning four first-team honors and Long Beach earning three. Both teams will boom big serves from the end line, both have excellent setters (the top two vote-getters for Setter of the Year on Off the Block and the top two hitting percentages in the nation), both have big powerful pin hitters and both can block a lot of balls. The match will come down to who receives serve better, and who wins the last two points of each set.
“It will come down to execution and composed play late in close sets,” said Knipe. “Both teams know each other so well, it’s going to be a lot of small in-game adjustments throughout the match.”
Click here to read our coverage of the Long Beach State men’s volleyball team this year, and come back for live in-game analysis throughout the match.