From the very first day of practice this year, the Long Beach State men’s volleyball team’s philosophy was to get one to two percent better every day. I’d say the team still isn’t at its best after winning the National Championship, only reaching the halfway point of its true potential. This is the start of a dynasty for the men’s volleyball program.
Dynasties have come and gone at Long Beach State, and the athletics program has been fortunate to have some excellent teams in its rich history.
The women’s basketball team had its greatest success during the ‘80s, coached by Joan Bonvicini, making 10 straight NCAA appearances. In the ‘90s, it was the Dirtbags who appeared in four College World Series, alongside the women’s volleyball team (who would go on to win three national championships).
If head coach Alan Knipe and company continue to recruit at a high level and maintain a good chunk of their young talent, the 2018 men’s volleyball team can be looked at as the manufacturers of the school’s next dynasty.
It’s celebration time for Long Beach following its NCAA Championship, but the real excitement lies in what is to come. Six out of the seven starting members will return for another season, including junior outside hitter TJ DeFalco and junior setter Josh Tuaniga, the past two AVCA Player of the Year award winners. Long Beach will clearly be the favorites to win back-to-back titles.
With head coach Alan Knipe signing a contract extension to 2023, the future looks bright for the men’s volleyball program. Long Beach is now recognized as a volleyball powerhouse, which will attract high-level players to help maintain the program.
This year was an almost perfect season that can easily be described using Julius Caesar’s famous words, “Veni, vidi, vici,” “They came, they saw, they conquered.”
At times the team looked unstoppable, winning 27 sets in a row and only dropping one match all season. On a daily basis, Long Beach showed its hunger for a championship and proved its desire to win it all in the final two sets of its stunning comeback against UCLA in the final round of the tournament.
After two consecutive years of losing in the NCAA semifinals, this match lived up to the hype. The city is behind the men’s volleyball program now more than ever before.
Sports bars are packed, the attendance at games continues to grow and the community can look forward to volleyball excellence for the next few years.