It took 86 sets and a three-hour battle for the No. 1 Long Beach State men’s volleyball team to finally suffer its first loss in what has been a historic season. Emotions were high for both sides, but the crowd of almost 6,000 overwhelmed the 49ers, causing their meltdown in the final two sets of the game.
Long Beach (24-1, 9-1 Big West) fell to No. 6 Hawaii (18-7, 6-4 Big West) 25-21, 22-25, 23-25, 25-20, 15-11 after narrowly defeating the Rainbow Warriors in five sets the night before, losing the final game heading into the Big West Tournament.
“It’s huge for us, we battled and we got the win for our seniors,” Hawaii head coach Charlie Wade said via Spectrum Sports Hawaii. “We think we’re one of the best teams in the nation, and we want to show that we belong in the NCAA tournament.”
Errors and a lack of composure proved to be the Achilles’ heel for the 49ers, piling up 17 hitting errors, 21 services errors, six receiving errors and eight blocking errors.
“Execution wise I don’t think we were at our best this weekend, and we certainly weren’t tonight,” head coach Alan Knipe said via LBSU_MVB on Twitter. “It’s been a long time for our guys since they felt that and I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing to have that little bit of emotion and disappointment.”
Many of these mistakes were made in crucial moments that gave Hawaii momentum. Long Beach fought hard to battle its own undoing, but fatigue quickly became a factor that the team could not overcome.
After winning back-to-back sets in the second and third, the 49ers looked like their usual selves, but the fourth set saw the biggest drop-off in performance.
Long Beach came out with an early 3-0 lead, but let Hawaii go on multiple runs without answering back. The biggest deficit of the fourth set came with the 49ers trailing 19-13, enough of a gap for the Rainbow Warriors to take the set with ease. Long Beach had been in the same position the night before, but this time Hawaii was in control.
It was a back-and-forth affair in the fifth set tied at 11-11, but Hawaii managed to finish strong with a 4-0 run. That was the ultimate dagger that sent Long Beach home with a loss for the first time this season.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the effort that our guys put in, it was great volleyball,” Knipe said via LBSU_MVB on Twitter. “We’re looking forward to getting our crowd in the Pyramid in the first ever Big West tournament, it’s going to be a good time.”
Long Beach finishes its regular season as the No. 1 ranked men’s volleyball program in the nation and looks to make a run in the NCAA Tournament. Before that, Long Beach will have to compete in the Big West Tournament which begins Thursday at the Walter Pyramid. The 49ers secured a bye week, so the team will skip the quarter finals and begin their postseason run at 7:30 p.m. Friday.