It wasn’t pretty, but in their second game of a back-to-back, the 49ers managed to scrape up enough energy to defeat the Anteaters, 28-26, 26-24, 25-14, and remain undefeated in conference play.
Starting out of sync, No. 2 Long Beach State (21-1, 6-0 Big West) was clearly bothered by No. 7 UC Irvine’s (14-9, 2-4 Big West) blocking, which caused the 49ers to nearly drop the first two sets. The Anteaters’ pressure on the net rattled Long Beach, which caused nine attack errors and a chance for Irvine to steal the first set until the 49ers clinched off of an Anteater error.
It’s been a growing pain for the team, as it gives up countless errors that allow opposing teams to hang around and occasionally steal sets from Long Beach, but the team finds ways to push back and take care of business.
“Offensively, tonight, we kind of struggled in the first set, and our block, defense and especially serving, bailed us out of that,” head coach Alan Knipe said.
Redshirt senior Nick Amado performed on both ends tonight, providing his usual blocking and defense but also igniting a spark on the offensive end. The team hit .293 for the match, a significant improvement after hitting just .057 after the first set. Amado provided nine kills on .818 hitting, the lone player hitting above .500.
“[When] we have all weapons going, it just opens up the court for everyone,” Amado said.
Long Beach could have easily dropped the first two sets tonight. Missing spots, hitting wide and struggling defensively were all factors the 49ers could not keep under wraps, and they nearly dropped both sets in extra points before gathering themselves and taking advantage of the Anteaters’ errors. On the night, Long Beach gave up 15 attack errors and 14 service errors, allowing Irvine to hang around in each set.
It wasn’t until the Anteaters had set point in the second that lit a flame under the 49ers, allowing them to storm back, make a run and cap off the set 26-24. The momentum carried over to the third, where Long Beach was able to cruise through and easily cap off the match.
“We talked about how this week we wanted to give the first punch instead of receiving it if we were actually going to get into a dog fight with another team,” senior libero Jordan Molina said. “We just had to make them play to our game, make things go our way when things aren’t going our way. We expect them to have a fight and we played our game, stayed true to who we are and just stick to our system.”
Long Beach will be back home 7 p.m. Friday against UC San Diego 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.