The No. 5 Long Beach State men’s volleyball team opened its season in the Walter Pyramid Saturday evening with an impressive sweep of Harvard. The Beach hit .413 in the 25-18, 25-16, 25-23 victory.
The match was well-attended as the team prepares for what it hopes will be its first full season with fans in attendance since 2019.
“It’s just great to be playing volleyball, great to be in the Pyramid, great to have fans,” said head coach Alan Knipe after the game. “I thought we played well in a lot of areas, especially for our first match.”
Reigning Big West Freshman of the Year Clarke Godbold had a big night at opposite, with 14 kills on .579 hitting, and two aces.
“We were super excited for tonight, you felt that in the locker room we’re listening to loud music just ready to get back out and be back with the fans,” said Godbold.
The match also featured the debut of much-heralded freshman Alex Nikolov, a Bulgarian youth national star who lived up to his high billing in his NCAA debut, starting at outside hitter. Nikolov was ripping aces in the 70 miles per hour range in the first set, blanking Harvard on back-to-back serves. He finished with eight kills on .385 hitting, a team-high six digs, and five aces, an eye-popping number for a first collegiate match.
“It doesn’t surprise me at all for him to play like this, he plays like this most days in practice,” said Knipe. “I’m happy for him to get on the court, everyone got to see tonight that he’s a heck of a volleyball player.”
Both of Nikolov’s parents played the sport professionally, and it’s obvious that he’s a volleyball lifer. His serve was comparable to the very best of what National Players of the Year TJ DeFalco and Josh Tuaniga were doing in their senior years at Long Beach State—high velocity with great placement and late movement on the ball that makes it hard to track. Nikolov said it’s a skill honed with a lot of hard work.
“I’ve had millions of reps on my serve, it’s always been my favorite part of the game,” he said. “It’s just you and the ball.”
Spencer Olivier had eight kills as the other outside along with five digs, and Aidan Knipe set a great match as the team hit over .400, and hit .571 on balls set by Knipe.
Long Beach State (1-0) will be back in action in the Pyramid Monday evening against Erskine at 7 p.m.