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Long Beach State Volleyball

Long Beach State Women’s Volleyball Raising Expectations For 2023

In head coach Tyler Hildebrand’s first year back at his alma mater coaching the Long Beach State women’s volleyball program, the Beach took a step forward. They finished 19-9 and third place in the Big West Conference. This year, returning talent plus a few new talented transfers have Hildebrand and his player optimistic the Beach will take another big step forward as they seek to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2014.

“We’re a much better volleyball team,” said Hildebrand after his team’s recent exhibition with Pepperdine. “We’re a lot better than we were last year, we’re a lot deeper, I think more talented. We’re better in almost every area so that’s what’s exciting. But as we know, we’re going to get really tested.”

Indeed, the Beach opens their season hosting Texas this Friday at 6 p.m. in the Walter Pyramid. They face LMU, Indiana, Washington, UCLA, Nebraska, and Arizona among others in the nonleague schedule before opening Big West play with Cal Poly, UC Santa Barbara, and Hawaii as three of their first four conference matches.


The Beach return several key pieces, including setter Zayna Meyer, who was among the best on the West Coast last year as a freshman and who Hildebrand has high expectations for as she enters her sophomore season.

“She had a great freshman year and she’s even better now,” he said. “I think she’s one of the best setters in the country.”

Meyer was named to the Big West’s Preseason All-Conference team as the Beach’s lone representative; the team was picked to finish third behind Hawaii and UCSB in that poll, but did receive one first-place vote from a Big West coach.

Meyer said that she’s felt totally comfortable integrating new players into the Beach’s offense, because of how flexible Hildebrand’s system is.

“It’s not really about getting a new person, it’s just having that person understand how we run things,” she said. “My set doesn’t change, which is really nice for me. Tyler does a great job of teaching everyone our tempo and how to run it, so it makes it easier for me to just do my job.”

Among the key returners are pin-hitter Katie Kennedy, a redshirt senior currently working on her grad degree at the Beach after earning second-team All-Big West honors last year. Kameron Bacon is back for the Beach in the middle and Nicole Hoff returns at libero along with Jenna Giambi. Opposite Maura Hayes showed off a rocket serve with two aces against Pepperdine; Jaylen Jordan is also back at OH after starting nine matches last year.

Of the newcomers, the most exciting is Abby Karich, a former Los Al High star who’s come back to Southern California for her redshirt junior season after three years at Utah. A six-foot pin-hitter, Karich is a cerebral player who looked like she fit right into the Beach’s system during their scrimmage with Pepperdine, putting up 12 kills, six digs and a block.

Elise Agi came in for Long Beach against Pepperdine and put up 14 kills and nine digs, having transferred in from Oregon.

Hildebrand said that his team hasn’t missed a beat incorporating new players, thanks to the strength of the program’s culture.

“We want a culture that’s resilient, that no matter where players come from we can bring them in and make them a part of that,” he said. “Getting them in in January makes it a lot easier, everyone had a lot of time together, the returners spent a lot of time teaching the new players. We don’t always want to be a ‘transfer portal team,’ but we’ve gotten really fortunate to get some great players.”

Meyer said she’s optimistic and having a blast.

“The relationships with each other are that much stronger, there’s a real connection on the court which is really incredible,” she said.

Mike Guardabascio
An LBC native, Mike Guardabascio has been covering Long Beach sports professionally for 13 years, with his work published in dozens of Southern California magazines and newspapers. He's won numerous awards for his writing as well as the CIF Southern Section’s Champion For Character Award, and is the author of three books about Long Beach history.