On a night where Long Beach State unveiled the 2018 NCAA Championship banner in front of a crowd of 2,667, the men’s volleyball team rolled through USC 25-17, 26-24, 19-25, 25-17, extending its undefeated season.
Despite dropping the third set and their first of the season, the dropped set served as a wake-up call for the 49ers, pushing them to dominate the Trojans in the fourth set to close out the match.
“We got pressed and that was good,” head coach Alan Knipe said. “You don’t like to lose sets, and this team hasn’t lost a set all season so losing that third was interesting to see how our guys would respond. I was super proud the way we responded right away.”
No. 1 Long Beach had a season-high 13 service aces and were led by senior outside hitter Kyle Ensing, who had 11 kills and six aces and senior setter Josh Tuaniga who had 35 assists and five aces. The 49ers ended the match hitting .384, while the Trojans hit .237.
Long Beach had issues communicating on the floor in the third set, giving up aces to USC and missing spots. But that didn’t stop the 49ers from finding a way to finish the match on a strong note.
“We were ready to respond, guys were geeked up to play,” Tuaniga said. “A lot of the game plan was going back to execution and being comfortable back at the end line.”
The crowd ignited Long Beach in the second set. When the 49ers had their backs against the wall, the crowd let out a huge roar after Trojans sophomore middle blocker Sam Lewis had a service error that tied the set at 24-24. Long Beach capped off the second set with a 26-24 win after Ensing rose up to get the final kill of the set.
“The crowd really got us into that game, they really helped us out,” Ensing said. “It really pushed us to reset … with a national championship, that really brought in a good crowd.”
Long Beach will go on the road 5 p.m. Thursday to face Lindenwood.
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.