No one will ever forget the year that ended the 20-year drought of winning a National Championship. The men’s volleyball team found redemption after losing in the semifinals last season by winning a national title. The year ended in a historic fashion for Long Beach State athletics, but it began with loss and disappointment.
Fall sports were a chore to watch. Many of the teams had underwhelming seasons, with the exception of No. 6 men’s water polo reaching the semifinals of the Golden Coast Conference Tournament. The loss of junior outside hitter Ashley Murray and the departure of longtime head coach Brian Gimmillaro hurt women’s volleyball, while women’s soccer suffered injuries all season long. Both men’s and women’s basketball did not have enough talent on the floor to keep up with the competition which, led to sub .500 seasons.
“A number of our fall sports teams dealt with injuries to key student-athletes which affected their results,” athletic director Andy Fee said. “Injuries are one part of the “game” we cannot control.
Even through all the rough patches, there were glimmers of hope. Sophomore libero Hailey Harward proved to be the future of the women’s volleyball program with her intense play. Freshmen forward Jordan Roberts showed good use of his length and athleticism for men’s basketball and sophomore defender Kaitlin Fregulia demonstrated her ability to be the defensive anchor for the women’s soccer team. The end results were not on the teams’ sides, but these products were enough to keep fans wanting more.
“I am proud of our programs and we have high expectations for our Fall teams to once again compete for championships this upcoming season,” Fee said.
Spring sports proved to be a lot more competitive, with men’s volleyball, beach volleyball, women’s water polo and softball ending its seasons nationally ranked. The Dirtbags took a major step back after reaching a super regional last season, yet they continued to fill the stands at Bohl Diamond at Blair Field.
“As I reflect on the success of our Spring teams, that success is not surprising as the caliber of our student-athletes is amazing,” Fee said. “As a whole, our campus and students continue to shine collectively and bring positive notoriety to our university.”
The highs of the spring semester definitely surpassed the lows of the fall, and success looks to be on the horizon for all of the teams at Long Beach State. Players are being developed, recruits are piling in and the gritty 49ers culture is starting to come into fruition.
“I am excited to see where our teams finish in the upcoming weeks, Fee said. “We want to thank our students, faculty and staff for supporting all our teams as they chase championships.”