It’s been a tough year at Long Beach State. The athletic success of 2011-12 hasn’t carried over to 2012-13, but the expectations have led to disappointing finishes in just about every sport.
The women’s soccer team followed up a Big West Conference title and elite eight appearance in the NCAA tournament with a season in which it finished fifth in the Big West despite being ranked in the national top 25 early in the season.
The women’s volleyball team failed to repeat as conference champions thanks to a ridiculous amount of injuries and the entrance of volleyball power Hawaii to the Big West.
The men’s basketball team couldn’t play as a team well enough to win three games in a row and fell to UC Irvine in the semifinals of the Big West tournament. It then went on to lose by 46 points in the National Invitational Tournament.
That being said, there have been bright spots.
The men’s water polo team made the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament for the first time since 2008, and the women’s water polo team tied the LBSU school record for wins with a Big West tournament still to play.
The brightest spot of all, however, has been the men’s volleyball team.
The 49ers, who had their best finish in the MPSF in five years, are ranked as the second-best team in the country by the American Volleyball Coaches Association. That’s incredible, considering what they had to do to get there.
LBSU head coach Alan Knipe returned to The Beach this year after spending the last four years coaching the United States men’s volleyball Olympic team. Knipe essentially started from scratch this season, taking a very talented squad and walking it through the fundamentals of volleyball before competitive play began.
Things may have started rough (the 49ers were swept twice in their first four games), but after early-season upsets of UCLA and No. 1 Brigham Young on the road, it was clear that LBSU was in for a special season.
Now, more than three months since they started the season ranked seventh in the country, the ‘Niners have cruised into the semifinals of the MPSF tournament.
That is where the cruise ends, though, as LBSU will now take on No. 3 UC Irvine at BYU’s Smith Fieldhouse. UCI is the only foe that the 49ers have not been able to beat this year.
But on a neutral court in the biggest game of the year, who knows what could happen? Smith Fieldhouse, after all, was where LBSU upset the nation’s top-ranked team earlier in the season.