After going undefeated for the entirety of February, the Long Beach State men’s volleyball team started off the month of March with a win over No. 6 UCI at the Walter Pyramid, 25-16, 25-22, 27-25 and 25-15.
“The most enjoyable part of coaching this team is their ability to come to the gym and truly want to get better,” coach Alan Knipe said. “Our guys will already have watched some video individually and know there’s some things they want to work on individually and we’ll also have some collective things. And when you get that culture going in the program, there’s a lot of good things that can happen.”
The 49ers (15-2, 11-1 MPSF) cruised to victory in set one by a margin of nine. LBSU never looked back after Amir Lugo-Rodriguez started off the game with a kill down the middle and held UCI to an overall hitting percentage of 42. The Anteaters nearly caught up with a score of 13-8, but a block by Lugo-Rodriguez and setter Josh Tuaniga garnered momentum for the 49ers, who eventually took the set 25-16.
Set two proved to be more of a match as the Anteaters (11-6, 8-5 MPSF) took the first point after a kill by outside hitter Thomas Hodges. The 49ers never trailed the set by more than four points and took a late lead after a kill by outside hitter TJ DeFalco tied it at 20. LBSU then took the lead and the set after an attack error by setter Michael Saeta ended it at 25-22.
LBSU took the early lead in set three by an error, once again courtesy of Saeta, but the Anteaters soon took the lead and let the 49ers regain control just once. Despite eight attack errors by UCI, the 49ers could not catch up to the Anteaters, causing them to lose set four 27-25 and the possibility of a sweep.
The 49ers looked like a No. 2 team again in set four, taking it 25-15 and never letting the Anteaters tie the game or take the lead. A hitting percentage of .542, compared to the Anteaters’ .087, gave LBSU a comfortable set win and its ninth-straight victory.
Outside hitter Kyle Ensing ended the game with 14 kills and 17 points.
“We feel pretty confident as a team, we’re all clicking and our transition number is very high and I think that’s what’s getting our wins going for us,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any different strategies to it. I think it’s just how we’ve been doing it so far and keep moving on.”
The 49ers were able to bounce back and their resilience has improved.
“There’s no doubt the response was good and more importantly it came a lot from the defense side and that is exactly what makes your offense a little bit better,” Knipe said. “You look at our hitting number on the fourth set …and everything felt a little more comfortable. I certainly like the things that we’re doing.”
The 49ers will be at the Pyramid again on Friday at 7 p.m. to host UC San Diego.