The 49er crowd roared when Long Beach State juniors John La Rusch and Taylor Gregory propelled their team past Cal State Northridge on Saturday night inside the Walter Pyramid.
The No. 11 49ers (15-12, 11-11 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) not only honored their seniors at their last home match, but also acknowledged two recently passed LBSU volleyball supporters Bill Lovelace and Teresa Farrell by wearing recognition patches on their jerseys.
Blown up headshots of seniors Ryan Windisch, Tyler Kulakowski and Chris van Vurren floated in the crowd for the entire match as part of their final flight inside the Pyramid. LBSU head coach Alan Knipe presented each senior with a framed jersey while telling his fondest memory of that player as teammates and family members looked on.
“Ryan [played] on a bad foot, but he did great in his role tonight,” Knipe said. “I didn’t give Tyler the number of reps I wanted to because of the flow of the match. I thought Chris did a really good job in game one and he did a great job serving for us.”
The 49ers head into the postseason as the seventh seed in the MPSF set to take on Hawaii in round one. Knipe said that after a two-week break, it was important for his team to get used to playing fast-paced volleyball again.
“We had to play harder and get back into that competing mode and that competition mode,” Knipe said. “It was really good for us, not very pretty at times, but good for us.”
The No. 13 Matadors (10-18, 7-15 MPSF) will miss the postseason following a difficult season that was plagued with injuries. Head coach Jeff Campbell said the match was typical of how his team’s season played out.
“We’ve been very close,” Campbell said. “We’ve lost many more deuce games than we’ve won. It was a competitive match, [but] it didn’t mean too much for us since we’re out [of the playoffs.]”
The 49ers ended their night hitting .189 percent compared to the Matadors .167. Junior outside hitter Andrew Whitt registered nine kills with only four errors. Whitt said his team came together when they were trailing in the match and adjusted well to hard serves from CSUN.
“We had to bounce back and talk about communication,” Whitt said. “[We had to] fall back on what we are successful with, which is communication in the seams and sticking the pass.”
The 49ers will take on No. 4 Hawaii in Honolulu April 25 for the first match of the MPSF playoffs.