No.1 Long Beach State men’s volleyball looks to extend its perfect season against USC in its home opener on Friday night.
The 49ers are picking up where they left off, dominating their last six opponents before heading into Friday’s matchup against the Trojans. Long Beach has not dropped a set this season, and capped it off with a sweep against No. 6 UCLA Saturday.
“We’re such a system-based team, we pride ourselves on working hard on every aspect of the game,” head coach Alan Knipe said. “For us, it’s, ‘Can we be better than we were last Saturday night and can we have improved in the highlighted areas that we identified individually and collectively for our team in this Friday night’s match?’”
The last time the 49ers played at the Walter Pyramid, they held up a trophy and punched their ticket into the NCAA tournament, beating Hawaii in straight sets and winning the inaugural Big West Tournament.
Long Beach will look to senior outside hitters, TJ DeFalco and Kyle Ensing, to continue its strong start to the season. DeFalco has been averaging 3.61 kills per set, while Ensing has added 3.50 per set. Senior setter and reigning AVCA Player of the Year Josh Tuaniga continues to run the offense, averaging 11.22 sets per game.
On the Trojans side, redshirt senior outside hitter Jack Wyett averages 4.67 kills per set, while senior outside hitter Ryan Moss contributes 3.94. Long Beach will have to limit USC’s aggressive offense led by the two outside hitters.
While the core from last year’s team has returned, and winning back-to-back championships has been a recent NCAA trend for men’s volleyball, the team intends to stay focused.
“One of the things I talk about is avoiding the noise, there’s no doubt that’s out there,” Knipe said. “That’s not for us to get concerned of right now. We’re concerned with making sure we have a good march toward putting ourselves in a position to have a chance to [win another championship].”
Before facing off against the Trojans, Long Beach will unveil the 2018 National Championship banner.
Long Beach will square off against USC 7 p.m. Friday in the Walter Pyramid.
Bryan Aparicio is a fourth year journalism student at Long Beach State. He was originally a business major before transferring to the journalism program because of his love for sports. He currently covers the Long Beach State men’s volleyball team, the reigning national champions and aspires to be a beat writer for a professional team in the future.