A unique season for the Long Beach State men’s volleyball team came to an end in the semifinals of the Big West Tournament in Hawaii on Friday night. The third-seeded Beach won the first set against No. 2 UCSB handily, but couldn’t maintain their momentum in a four-set defeat, 16-25, 25-17, 25-18, 25-15.
“It really went our way in the first set and they did a great job of responding,” said LBSU coach Alan Knipe. “It was a tough night, one of those weird matches where everything went our way early and we struggled to keep it going.”
UCSB coach Rick McLaughlin acknowledged it was an odd match, with his Gauchos getting absolutely dominated in the first frame before coming back to slam the door on the Beach.
“Typically when you get boat raced in the first set like we did, you don’t come back,” said McLaughlin. “Our guys didn’t blink. They were locked in.”
Knipe said that he didn’t feel like there was a particular adjustment or strategy shift that resulted in the change in result, just a different level of desperation from the other side of the net.
“It was just energy level,” he said. “Flat out effort. They have a lot of six year guys and they made that flip a little quicker than we did–we learned, especially our young guys learned a lesson. When teams are on the brink and they’re down there’s going to be a response, there’s desperation there.”
The Gauchos pulled away in the second, third, and fourth set to win all three comfortably and advance to Saturday’s Big West championship match against host Hawaii. Knipe said that regardless of the loss, he was proud of his team, which had last season cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic and which didn’t start practicing until a few months ago.
“Every coach at the end of this season will reflect on how much their team has been through,” he said. “I just got done telling them how proud I was of the amazing things they were able to do with such a late start.”
The Beach will return almost its entire team next season as they look to bounce back from a shortened 2021 season that saw them battling injuries after a fast restart. The team’s breakout player, Spencer Olivier, will return; Olivier had 18 kills on .448 hitting on Saturday.
It was the last match for All-American middle blocker Simon Anderson and outside hitter Ethan Siegfried, who came off the bench as a freshman for the Beach for their 2018 national championship, and was a starter on the 2019 national title team. Siegfried, a Hawaii native, was playing in his hometown for his last match with the Beach. He posted eight kills, six digs, two blocks, and two aces.
“I couldn’t be more fortunate to have had the career that I had,” he said. “It’s unfortunate to go out losing but it’s only positives for me.”
Knipe highlighted Siegfried as a special player.
“When I came to recruit Ethan he had a chip on his shoulder to prove everyone wrong that didn’t recruit him,” Knipe said. “When he comes back home he’ll have two really nice rings to show everyone who didn’t believe in him. He’s a two-time national champion and he’ll always be that.”