The sound of sneakers squeaking on a sweat-saturated floor suffused the Gold Mine Gym Monday afternoon as the No. 9 Long Beach State men’s volleyball team prepared to face the familiar foes of Cal Baptist tonight and No. 7 USC Friday in the Walter Pyramid.
The 49ers (11-9, 7-8 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) split their weekend matches against Harvard and Penn State during the Asics Tournament, trouncing the Crimson but succumbing to the Nittany Lions.
“We’re going to get back in the gym, get up on the boxes and get a lot of hard serves coming at our passers,” junior outside hitter Dan Glamack said.
Junior opposite hitter John La Rusch said the team has been working on serve-receive offense and transition offense in practice. La Rusch said one of his personal goals was to work on his serving after committing three service errors Saturday night.
“I didn’t have the best serving match against Penn State, which bothered me, so I worked on that a lot today,” La Rusch said Monday after practice.
LBSU earned the sweep over Cal Baptist (6-4, 2-12 MPSF) early in the season, but 49ers head coach Alan Knipe said the Lancers play a little bit of a different style of offense than what his team is used to, and it takes a few opportunities to catch onto how they play.
The Lancers are coming off of a five-set loss to Lindenwood on March 14. Cal Baptist took the first two sets before falling in a close race to the Lions.
The 49ers lost to then No. 2 USC (11-6, 9-5 MPSF) on Jan. 28 in three sets. LBSU managed to record just a -.043 hitting percentage on the night. LBSU will face senior setter Micah Christenson, one of the top setters in the country averaging 10.48 assists per set and is already taking on the setter role for the United States men’s national team.
“USC has arguably the best player in college volleyball in their setter Micha Christenson,” Knipe said, “and he does a really good job at running their offense.”
Christenson set up his hitters for success against the 49ers in the team’s last meeting, helping senior middle blocker Robert Feathers lead the Trojans to a .348 hitting percentage against the 49ers, slamming down eight kills and six blocks.
La Rusch said in the 49ers’ first meetings with the Lancers and Trojans, the team was trying to put everything together and the guys were still getting used to playing with each other.
“Early in the season, playing as a team was something that we were working on at that time,” La Rusch said. “We’re doing that better now so it’s going to be more of a team effort to win.”
The 49ers will begin their late season push in league play Wednesday night against Cal Baptist and Friday night against USC. Both matches start at 7 p.m.