The562’s coverage of Long Beach State athletics for the 2022-23 season is sponsored by Marilyn Bohl.
The562’s coverage of Long Beach State Volleyball is sponsored by Naples Island Car Wash. Visit NaplesIslandCarWash.com to learn more.
While Long Beach State women’s basketball prepared to host Big West rivals Hawaii last Saturday afternoon, things looked a bit worrisome inside Walter Pyramid. Heavy rainfall had taken its toll, once again seeping through the roof of Walter Pyramid.
A half dozen trash cans, a kid-sized swimming pool, and several feet of tarp were arranged at various points around the arena, catching the rain drops as they fell from high above. Ultimately, the teams agreed to relocate the game to Long Beach State’s west gym, better known as The Gold Mine.
The former home of 49er Basketball was relegated to a practice facility and for use by intramural sports programs once the Pyramid opened in the fall of 1994. Since then, the women’s basketball team has played just once in the old venue–a game against UC Santa Barbara on March 6, 2004–before some members of this year’s team were even born.
“Out of an abundance of caution and concerns for student-athlete safety, our women’s basketball & men’s volleyball games were rescheduled to the Gold Mine,” said Associate Athletic Director of Facilities and Event Operations Mike Habura in an official statement about the venue change. “We will continue to work through the process of fixing leaks of the Walter Pyramid during heavy rains.”
The game was relocated after only an hour-long delay, with a few hundred fans making the short trek in the rain and mostly filling up the bleacher seats. With the crowd closer together and closer to the floor, it made for an exciting and unique atmosphere–one that seemed to benefit the Beach early on as they raced out to a 17-7 lead after the first quarter.
Ultimately, LBSU played a strong game defensively and secured a needed 62-48 win over Hawaii, making the last-minute venue change much easier to enjoy.
“As much as we love the Pyramid, it was great to come into a place that's seen a lot of good basketball,” said LBSU head coach Jeff Cammon, referencing the program’s glory days of the ‘80s and ‘90s, when the Gold Mine hosted 11 NCAA Tournament games. “I think it's more like a high school feel, and some of our kids are a lot more comfortable in that environment. We want to be ready for any type of environment, but we practice in here, we're very comfortable playing in here, so it was good.”
In the minutes leading up to the game, a few necessary adjustments had to be made in order for the game to take place. Event staff workers were on hands and knees under each basket, measuring out the correct distance to create a new restricted arc with white tape. Thanks to a rule change prior to the 2017-18 season that increased the restricted area from three feet to four, the court at the Gold Mine is now out of date.
The arena’s sound system was just a portable speaker stationed underneath the makeshift media table, and the customary national anthem was scrapped–possibly due to the fact that there was no American flag hanging in the building.
From a player’s perspective, they had no problem playing a game in the Gold Mine. That’s where the team’s first official practice is held each season, and where countless hours are spent during the offseason honing their craft.
Sixth-year senior point guard Ma’Qhi Berry has been practicing in that gym since she first got to campus in the fall of 2017. In fact, the team had held practice in the Gold Mine the week prior while other teams were using the Pyramid. So really, it was the waiting that was the hardest part for the players on Saturday.
“We were sitting around in the locker room waiting, and we didn’t know if we were gonna play or where we were gonna play,” Berry explained. “Our coaches were just pumping us up, like ‘This is only gonna make us stronger, we can show our character and play how we want to play when we're facing adversity.’ And I think we were definitely prideful about that and took that into this game.”
The Beach played with plenty of pride and tenacity, snapping a four-game losing streak against Hawaii as six different players (including Berry) scored 8 or more points in the win.
“I may petition to play here all the time,” joked Cammon after his team’s performance in their temporary digs. “I mean, I feel really comfortable here. The Pyramid’s great. It’s one of the best arenas in the world, but there's something to be said about a packed gym. It kind of adds to the home court advantage.”
Interestingly enough, that was just the first of three official games played in the Gold Mine last Saturday. LBSU was set to host a pair of men’s volleyball matches, and with Walter Pyramid out of commission, ended up having a volleyball doubleheader after the women’s hoops game. USC and King University played first, followed by a Long Beach State sweep against Lindenwood.
However, appearances by the men’s volleyball team have been much more common in the Gold Mine; the team played a pair of official matches during the 2017 season. In fact, the Beach even hosted a match against No. 1 BYU back in March of 2013. On that day, over 1,800 fans crammed into the Gold Mine to see a meeting of two Top 5 teams in the country.
Saturday’s win over Lindenwood was a standing room only affair with an announced attendance of 1,113. In that environment, The Beach were able to translate their experience from practice into an actual game setting, cruising to a win in straight sets.
“I would say we're pretty used to playing in here because we train here all fall, but it's just different,” said junior libero Mason Briggs. “We've never played here in a game atmosphere with the bleachers down and an opponent serving at us. But I mean, a volleyball court’s still the same. So we just plan to play the same every single game.”