The562’s coverage of Long Beach State Volleyball is sponsored by Naples Island Car Wash. Visit NaplesIslandCarWash.com to learn more.
The Long Beach State men’s volleyball team got its season off to a perfect start with a pair of sweeps against King and Lindenwood. Saturday’s match against Lindenwood had an old school flavor, as the Beach hosted the Lions in the Gold Mine, the team’s historic home prior to the opening of the Walter Pyramid in 1994. The Pyramid’s roof is in need of repair as it leaks in several places when it rains, as it did most of Saturday–that forced the day’s competitions into the Gold Mine, where teams frequently train but rarely play.
The Beach’s last home match there was against Sacred Heart in 2017, and prior to that they hosted BYU in a sweaty, messy sweep loss in 2013.
There is a lot of happy history in the small gym, though, and they added to that Saturday night with a 25-17, 25-21, 25-17 win.
“I’d rather be in the Pyramid,” said LBSU volleyball coach Alan Knipe with a laugh. “I get there’s some nostalgia to it but this gym is not necessarily prepared for matches anymore. It’s kind of cool for people to get to be that close to the athleticism, but I prefer to be in the Pyramid.”
The biggest issue with the Gold Mine (and a bigger challenge for volleyball than for basketball) is the low height of the building’s ceiling. When the Gold Mine was built, jump-serving wasn’t allowed in volleyball. Now, players routinely rip 70-mph serves, and passing frequently requires a high arc from the back row to the setter. That left plenty of plays disrupted by the ball caroming off a fixture overhead.
“This was a fairly decent-sized gym when it was built, but the sport has outgrown it with physicality,” said Knipe.
All of that said, the capacity crowd clearly enjoyed the match and the proximity to the court, with loud cheers throughout the sweep, and more than 1,100 fans packed in to watch the Beach open their season with a second win.
The team hit .267 in the match but were at a .480 and .304 clip in the first two frames before struggling down the stretch. Spencer Olivier had eight kills and Clarke Godbold had seven, while Ohio State transfer Sotiris Siapanis had six kills, five aces, and two blocks. Libero Mason Briggs had 13 digs to lead all players and said he didn’t mind the friendly (and tight) confines of the team’s historic gym.
“It’s pretty cool, I was texting a couple of the guys and we decided to embrace it,” he said. “We practice here in the fall, why not come in with a match? It’s obviously different with everyone set up but we’re pretty used to being in here for training.”
The team will now hit the road as they visit George Mason, this year’s NCAA Tournament host next week, then Penn State on Jan. 25. They’ll return to (hopefully) the Pyramid on February 3 to host Loyola Chicago at 7 p.m.
In the meantime, Knipe hopes to see his team continue to develop in all phases, while acknowledging that they looked in midseason form already after two matches.
“We want it to feel like waves coming in, you get hit with a wave and you’re underwater and you can’t get your breath because it’s serving, it’s defense, it’s blocking, it’s offense,” said Knipe. “It’s your effort. We’re there in a lot of categories for this early in the season, but we want to keep stretching that out.”
Of the Beach’s 75 points Saturday, 14 came via block and 10 came via ace, with another 16 from service errors by their opponent, meaning the Beach needed just 30 kills to dispatch the Lions in a sweep.