LBSU (5-12, 2-2 Big West) is tied with UC Irvine (13-2, 1-1 Big West) for fourth in the Big West, and looks for its first conference win outside the Walter Pyramid.
Last year, both matches against the Anteaters ended in controversy, but resulted in a five set loss for the 49ers. In the first meeting, LBSU originally won in five sets, but the NCAA ruled that the game be replayed due to a mistake made by the officiating crew that favored the 49ers. On Oct. 28, the Black and Blue rivalry matchup ended when former head coach Brian Gimmillaro received a red card that carried a one point penalty against Long Beach State, which gave UC Irvine match point and the win. LBSU protested and the match was declared a no contest.
In the wake of these injuries, redshirt freshman and outside hitter Brooke Earkman has stepped up for the team by taking a starting position.
Earkman posted a career-high 15 kills and a career-high .382 hitting percentage against UCSB last Saturday in her second start for LBSU. Earkman is confident in her play, and is prepared to help the team push forward.
“I plan to start for the rest of the season here,” Earkman said. “As long I keep the same energy and stick to the game plan, I know I can help lead this team.”
Head coach Joy McKienzie-Fuerbringer continues to experiment with line-ups, but is impressed with Earkman’s work ethic and will give her the starting job.
“She works hard in practice and has proven that she can be on the floor and progress the offense,” McKienzie-Fuerbringer said. “It was easy to plug her in, and the chemistry with the other starters was instant.”
Taking care of the ball and communicating on the floor is the biggest priority for the first year coach.
“Keeping the offense intact is what is going to keep us in the match,” McKienzie-Fuerbringer said. “It all starts with making sure every player knows what they are supposed to do.”
The Anteaters are led by junior opposite Harlee Kekauoha, who averages 3.21 kills per set on .287 hitting. She also adds 2.28 digs, 0.72 assists and 0.40 aces per set. Washington State transfer Haley DeSales leads the team with 3.32 kills per set and middle Idara Akpakpa is hitting .360 on the season.
LBSU is solely focused on taking on UC Irvine (8-8, 0-4 Big West) and will plan for its matchup at UC Davis on Saturday by watching film and having a light practice beforehand.