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Two titans of the NCAA men’s volleyball world will meet tonight and tomorrow in the Walter Pyramid, as No. 2 Long Beach State hosts No. 4 Hawaii for a pair of Big West matches tonight at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. (in a game televised on ESPNU).
The last time a team other than the Beach or the Warriors won the NCAA title was 2017, when Ohio State won; the Beach won in 2018 and 2019 (defeating Hawaii in the Pyramid), and then the Warriors won in 2021.
The rivalry is the best in the country in men’s volleyball at this moment in time–but that doesn’t mean anyone at the Beach is going to toss out any juicy quotes about it.
“We talk a lot about avoiding noise,” said LBSU coach Alan Knipe. “So for us to get into a conversation about certain teams or certain matchups, or something that happened a couple of years ago, or whatever, is just totally against how we built it up. We have a ton of respect for all the teams in the Big West, and the most important one is the team you happen to play that week. We believe that. I don’t say that just to be cliche, that’s where our focus is every week.”
Jedi-level coachspeak aside, the matchup certainly means quite a bit to the Long Beach volleyball community and to fans of the sport as a whole. The Pyramid should be rocking both nights, and Saturday’s game is being televised nationally.
The Warriors are the best in the country at home attendance while Long Beach is No. 3, averaging 1,400 fans a match, a number likely to double or triple this weekend.
The two teams are tied for first place in the Big West, but have played very different schedules so far this year. Long Beach is 8-2 against nationally-ranked teams while Hawaii has not played many tough matches, with only series against No. 9 UCSD and No. 7 Ball State to show in terms of top ten opponents. The Warriors went 2-2 in those matches, splitting the series with both.
Long Beach, on the other hand, has played No. 1 UCLA twice, No. 3 Penn State, and already had a pair of matches (both wins last weekend) against No. 6 UCSB.
That being said, in a rivalry like Long Beach and Hawaii, records go out the window--both teams are playing for first-place in the Big West, for NCAA seeding, and for pride.
“It’s great for the sport,” said LBSU libero Mason Briggs. “Any top matchup that brings more fans to the Pyramid, to see our sport--getting high school teams and people who love the sport out, that’s great. And obviously that rivalry does help, so I think it’s going to be fun on back to back nights.”
We’ll have live updates and full coverage from both nights in the Pyramid.