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The Long Beach State men’s volleyball team won a pair of matches over the weekend, taking down NJIT in four sets Friday evening, then defeating Long Island in the Beach’s most dominant sweep of the year.
Long Beach State remains ranked No. 2 in the nation, trailing only UCLA, who the Beach split a pair of matches with this season.
Long Beach is in action again this week as they open Big West play, traveling to UC Irvine Thursday evening then hosting the Anteaters on Friday night.
Long Beach def. NJIT 25-16, 25-20, 23-25, 25-16
The Beach defeated the Highlanders but there was a palpable frustration among the coaches and players about dropping the third set of the match, which saw Long Beach hit just .032.
“They’re a really good team with some good wins,” said LBSU coach Alan Knipe. “We played some incomplete volleyball in the second and third set. We believe, with no disrespect to NJIT, it’s a little self-inflicted in every part of the game. The best part was the ability to shake it off and play maybe our best set in the fourth set.”
The Beach hit .462 in a dominant fourth-set effort, but that didn’t entirely erase the bitter taste in their mouth.
“What we will dwell on a little bit is we played the fourth set because of incomplete volleyball in the third set,” said Knipe.
As usual, freshman Alex Nikolov put on a show with 19 kills on .351 hitting, three aces, five digs, two blocks, and two assists. His serve was dialed in, and he was hitting his usual 70 mph aces along with curling “changeups” that drop over the net at 20-30 mph slower. Nikolov said it’s a collaboration between he and the coaches about which serves to implement at which points in the match.
“It’s a little bit of both,” he said. “It depends on the situation and what the team needs in that moment, if we’re going for an ace or if we need to get it so someone can’t swing.”
Setter Aidan Knipe said that the team loves seeing Nikolov go back to the end line to serve.
“It’s a feeling of comfort for sure, he’s one of if not the best server in the country,” he said. “We say to each other we have to keep him on the line. He creates a lot of havoc, and we have to make sure we’re disciplined with our blocking to reward him for serving as well as he does.”
The Beach hit .281 in the match and posted 12 blocks. Spencer Olivier had 14 kills and 14 digs, while libero Mason Briggs had 13 digs. Clarke Godbold didn’t have a great hitting night with nine kills on .111 hitting, but did have seven blocks and two aces.
Long Beach def. Long Island 25-18, 25-14, 25-15
The Beach easily took down Long Island in three to improve to 10-2 on the season. Long Beach hit .558 in the match and held Long island to .062. Nikolov had 12 kills on .600 hitting and Godbold had 10 on .750 hitting.