With less than 24 hours to rest, regroup and focus for its next match, the Long Beach State men’s volleyball team displayed an elite performance to become Big West regular season champions and reclaim the title of number one team in the nation.
The Walter Pyramid had record-breaking attendance, with 4,674 people watching the 49ers (25-1, 10-0 Big West) thump the Rainbow Warriors (25-2, 8-2 Big West), clinching a number one seed heading into next week’s Big West Tournament. On senior night, with a chance to show out one last time in the regular season, the 49ers displayed their resilience and responded well by overcoming their early struggles.
“We definitely enjoy these types of moments, and we definitely think that later into the postseason that every single match is going to be like these last two matches,” senior libero Jordan Molina said. “We’re getting comfortable in these situations, and it’s going to help us prepare for what we come up with next time.”
Senior outside hitter TJ DeFalco showed why he was an AVCA player of the year, recording a game-high 21 kills along with 11 digs, eight blocks and a couple of service aces that ignited the team’s comeback. The 49ers fed off of the crowd, who rallied the team from being down two sets to one after it put up a mere 13 points in the third set.
The Rainbow Warriors had the 49ers on the brink of defeat after a dreadful third set, but DeFalco went into a zone again, where he was the best player on the court.
“This game is about different battles within the war,” DeFalco said. “We started grinding it out, going back to our system … we got the momentum back and we decided to run with it.”
Head coach Alan Knipe inserted sophomore outside hitter Ethan Siegfried into the starting lineup after an efficient outing in Friday’s matchup. Siegfried came in for senior outside hitter Louis Richard. The move paid dividends as Siegfried racked up 16 kills, 10 digs, four blocks and one huge reason for Long Beach’s comeback.
With tonight’s win, Long Beach claimed the Big West championship, reclaimed number one in the nation and displayed why the 49ers are the reigning national champions. Senior middle blocker Nick Amado explained how the team fed off the crowd and what the mentality will be going in to next week’s Big West Tournament hosted by Hawai’i.
“We tell ourselves every day if we can execute anywhere, anytime, any place against anyone, we’re going to go to Hawaii and that’s what we’re going to do,” Amado said. “We don’t care who’s in the stands … at the end of the day it’s about us and we’re going to play our game and if they like it or they don’t, I guess that’s their problem.”
Long Beach will be the top seed heading into the Big West Tournament April 18 with the opponent to be determined.
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.