The last time Long Beach State won a national championship, Michael Jordan finished his second three-peat with the Chicago Bulls, Google had just launched its search engine and the very first MP3 player was introduced.
It’s been 20 years since Long Beach has tasted a national championship, when the undefeated women’s volleyball team beat Penn State in 1998 to cap off a perfect season. Now the school is two wins away from reliving the glory, and it’s looking good for the 49ers.
The No. 1 Long Beach men’s volleyball team suffered its first loss of the season going into the Big West tournament, and looked to have lost some of its edge heading into it. It was the first sign of adversity that the team faced this year, but last weekend the 49ers proved how dominant they really are.
No. 6 Hawaii took Long Beach to five sets in back-to-back matches, but when it really mattered the men’s volleyball team buckled down and swept the Rainbow Warriors with ease. Josh Tuaniga held the MVP trophy, while TJ DeFalco erected the tournament trophy. In front of the crowd of 2,325, the team gathered in celebration.
In the preseason Long Beach was picked to finish second in the nation, but after being named the top ranked team Jan. 15, the team never budged. Victory after victory and sweep after sweep, winning became the norm on campus and the hype started to rise. It’s been a long time since Long Beach has had a winning culture but the men’s volleyball team have brought it back. As attendance increased through the season, many of the players on the team became widely recognizable while walking through campus. After games, fans would run down the Walter Pyramid and ask for pictures and signatures from the team, something that hasn’t been done for any other team this season. A year filled with a lackluster men’s basketball team and a struggling Dirtbags squad, the men’s volleyball team became a beacon of hope.
Long Beach will be able to relax for the first two days of the NCAA tournament, and will wait to face either Ohio State, King (TN) or UC Irvine. The first round should be a breeze for the top-ranked team in the nation, but the final game of the NCAA tournament could prove to be a challenge. UCLA and Harvard are both in contention to make the final round which would be the best scenario for Long Beach to confidently play for the championship.
Both teams were bested by Long Beach with ease this season, making it a great opportunity for the 49ers to run away with the trophy. What is most likely to go down is No. 2 BYU and No. 1 Long Beach will meet in the final round and clash in a hard-fought match. Both teams have not met all season, but if Long Beach is truly as dominant as it has been all season, don’t be surprised if the brooms come out even in the postseason.