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Long Beach State Volleyball

TODAY: Long Beach State Hosts UCLA For NCAA Volleyball Championship

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Long Beach will be the volleyball capital of the world on Saturday, as the Walter Pyramid plays host to the NCAA championship, with Long Beach State (27-2) facing off against UCLA (25-5) for the trophy every team in America has been chasing this year. The match is sold out and will be televised live on ESPN, a big deal for the growing sport that saw eight teams in an expanded NCAA Tournament for the first time.

Both the Beach and the Bruins won five-set thrillers in the Final Four on Thursday, and both teams (and coaches) looked like they’d been through the ringer at Friday’s press conferences.

“Both teams got pushed and had to dig deep to win and survive in five,” said LBSU coach Alan Knipe. “That’s exactly how the tournament should be…Incredibly happy for our guys with the grit that they showed to give themselves a chance to play for it all tomorrow.”

Knipe said he hadn’t yet decided what to do with Clarke Godbold and Nathan Harlan, both of whom have been difference-makers for the Beach this year. Godbold was dominant in the Big West Tournament and earned Tourney MVP honors; but Harlan played well in stretches this year when Godbold was out with injury, and came in to spark a reverse sweep comeback in the Final Four.

There’s plenty of history between the two programs, who’ve played more than 100 times. UCLA coach John Speraw said he had no idea how many times he’d faced off against Knipe, since both coaches have been at their respective schools for more than two decades. Recently, UCLA defeated the Beach in the Final four last year, while the Beach beat UCLA in the Final Four the year before. The two teams also played for a national title in 2018. The Beach will be seeking their fourth national title and first since 2019 on Saturday.

Both teams serve hard and have a variety of hitting options, with the ability to put up big blocks in bunches. 

LBSU libero Mason Briggs was outstanding on Thursday and will need to be so again Saturday to get a win. He said it was important that the team quickly refocus after their Thursday night match.

“We have been here before, a lot of us, and for me it’s just making sure we’re staying present and coming back to reality that we have a match tomorrow,” he said. “The job’s not finished, and there’s more to go. We can still get better as a team.”

We’ll have live updates and full coverage from the Pyramid on Saturday.

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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.