Photo courtesy Long Beach State
The future is bright for the Long Beach State men’s volleyball team, which just signed the best recruiting class of any program in the nation according to VolleyballMag.com.
“It’s an incredibly talented group with a lot of volleyball IQ and experience,” said LBSU coach Alan Knipe. “We pretty much cover almost every position with immediate impact or depth.”
Five members of the Beach’s incoming class of signees made the magazine’s annual Fab 50 rankings, and its central piece, Clarke Godbold, was the top-ranked recruit in the nation.
This marks the second time in five years that Long Beach State had the top recruiting class, and the second time in five years they’ve nabbed the nation’s best recruit.
“Clarke’s quote in the magazine was, ‘There’s too much good going on at Long Beach to say no,’” said Alan Knipe. “I think that’s a huge badge to our program and our culture and everything going on at the university–they’re noticing.”
Knipe’s last top-ranked recruit was TJ DeFalco, who won two National Player of the Year awards at LBSU and helped lead the team to back-to-back national titles. Those around the sport feel Godbold is another instant game-changer.
“He’s really good,” said Knipe of the 6-foot-5 outside hitter from Palos Verdes. “He can play on the left or the right, he’s real good hitting out of the back row, and he’s a complete volleyball junkie, so he’ll fit into our gym nicely.”
Godbold was on the 2018 and 2019 USA Youth National Team, leading the team to a gold medal last year.
The other Fab 50 recruits were Long Beach Poly middle blocker Matt Iamaleava, Nato Dickinson, Noah Robin, and Sebastian Rodriguez.
Iamaleava was an All-American at last year’s Junior Nationals, while Dickinson is a 6-foot-7 hitter who was on the USA Youth A1 training team last year. Robin is a 6-foot-7 middle blocker, but the best signee besides Godbold might be Rodriguez, a 6-foot-5 hitter from Redondo Union. Rodriguez has been battling injuries, but was a former Junior Nationals MVP in 2018 who was also on the USA Youth National Team.
“He’s a really talented kid, he’s played for a long time and sees the game really well,” said Knipe.
The Beach will be well-positioned next year as one of the top four or five teams in the nation, and have the talent to remain in that position for the next four years. The team is coming off a bizarre interrupted season, finishing at 9-1 overall and ranked No. 4 in the nation.
The 2020 season was always going to be a bridge between the back-to-back national titles of the 2018 and 2019 seasons, and the bright future of 2021 and onward with this incoming class of recruits. Now, because of the cancelation of the 2020 season, the Beach will technically enter the 2021 season as the defending NCAA champs, with a young but talented roster. Knipe said he’s doing his best to reset from the shock of the season ending–an even he sees from multiple perspectives as both a coach and the father of an athlete on his team.
“I think initially with the shutdown, you see it from a very narrow focus,” said Knipe. “You’re frustrated, you’re disappointed, you’re mad. As you get a better grasp of what’s going on you realize this is way bigger than myself, my team, my son. We have zero control of this, and we have to focus on what we can control–it’s a unique thing.”
Knipe finds himself in a near ideal situation as far as his roster. The team only had one senior, and he’s not planning on returning for 2021 because of a promising career in commercial real estate. That means Knipe doesn’t have to juggle the challenge of a disrupted cycle.
“I feel for the coaches and kids dealing with that,” he said. “There’s no clean way to do this–there will be fallout for years to come. It’s really good for this great recruiting class coming in that there aren’t six guys that were supposed to be gone who are now back.”