In front of a Walter Pyramid crowd of over 2,200, Long Beach State senior outside hitter Bjarne Huus would rise up and unleash a 60 mph rocket from his right arm. The serve would dive down the left sideline, landing just inside the line for an ace and giving the 49ers set point. This brought the fans to their feet, and they were ready for Huus to finish the job.
For Huus, it was a chance at redemption. Just one week prior, Long Beach suffered its first loss of the season to the same Hawaii team it was now facing in the Big West Tournament Final.
The 23-year-old did not take the loss lightly. After hitting a mere .111 on six kills, Huus shouldered some of the blame and wanted another crack at the Rainbow Warriors.
“He was very frustrated with some of the things that he had control over that he didn’t do very well,” head coach Alan Knipe said. “His maturity to come back in and state everything that he wanted to do and to hold himself accountable, that’s a snapshot of the Bjarne that we have had for four years.”
Huus’ career with Long Beach began 2014 when he arrived in sunny Southern California from Foerde, Norway. He ran into a big surprise when stepping into the locker room on his first day. Expecting a smaller roster, like back home in Europe, he instead saw a locker room full of players.
“In Europe, you usually have 12 to 14 players [on the team], and here you have 22 players that all play at a very high level,” Huus said. “That was new to me.”
His time at Long Beach can be summed up as a roller coaster, with highs of securing a starting position his senior year and lows of injuries and heartbreaking losses. It took Huus three years to become a full-time starter for the 49ers. After senior Ryan Windish suffered a shoulder injury, Haas would take over his position. Over his next two seasons, Huus would make a combined 21 starts for Long Beach, a number he was unsatisfied with, but propelled him to approach his senior season with a goal: win a spot in the starting lineup.
“Coming into the season, you could tell he wanted to remove any doubt,” Knipe said. “You could sense that in every workout, every time we lifted, anytime we had individual sessions, anytime we got a chance to compete, anytime we played someone over him you could sense it in him that he didn’t want to come off the court.”
Huus’ work ethic paid off, starting every game this year and producing career-highs in every category. He finished the regular season totalling 156 kills, 31 assists, 21 aces, 125 digs and 46 blocks.
Huus is a player with laser focus when he steps onto the court. He plays with a slight scowl on his face, never getting too high or too low emotionally with every point scored.
“It’s a pleasure playing with him,” freshman middle blocker Simon Anderson said. “He’s really a good guy to lean up against because he is usually so calm in the matches.”
Huus’ focus comes through his experience playing the last two years. Gut wrenching defeats the last two seasons by BYU in the semifinals of the NCAA tournament, still haunt Huus to this day.
“That moment in the locker room with the guys you have played with for two or three years, that emotional feeling right there is something that hurts,” Huus said. “It hurts to think about it right now. Coming back I want to get revenge for all the people that were there with us the last two years that aren’t here now.”
Huus’ desperation of not having a fourth chance at a title next year has given him an edge, one that he has used to become a leader for his teammates.
“He’s done a great job using our idea of getting one percent or two percent better every day, and knowing that, that will help him achieve the goals he desires,” Knipe said. “He knows he’s going to do it and he has been pushing guys all year to make sure they do it, and I’m sure some of that comes with the pressure of being a senior.”
That feeling has been building inside Huus all year, as he and his teammates now embark on their third Final Four match in three years. For Huus, it’s his last chance at being a national champion, the number one goal he set out to accomplish since stepping onto campus.
“I don’t have any other choice. I am not going to give up, that’s not going to be a choice,” Huus said. “You have your back against the wall, and every time you take one step forward, the wall follows you. I’m not going to get another shot at this, so I really need to value the time I have and make sure I do everything right to make sure I win this championship.”
Huus will make his last attempt at a Final Four win with the rest of his teammates at 5 p.m. Thursday when Long Beach faces Ohio State at Pauley Pavilion. The Final Four games will be streamed on NCAA.com and on ESPNU while the NCAA Championship game will be on Saturday at 4 p.m. on ESPN2.