It wasn’t as loud in the Walter Pyramid and the 49ers weren’t as sharp as they usually are, but the men’s volleyball team managed to regroup after a sloppy second set and sweep the Red Flash (25-12, 25-21, 25-14).
No.1 Long Beach (17-0, 2-0 Big West) came out sharp in the first set against unranked Saint Francis (11-8, 5-2 EIVA), hitting .545 while holding its opponent to .238. Senior setter Josh Tuaniga closed out the set, sneakily catching the defense by surprise with back-to-back dumps.
On the match point, the ball went Tuaniga’s way for him to set it up for his teammates, but instead he dumped the ball to an open spot on the court. The crowd roared with laughter and applause as the team celebrated the set win.
The second set was a different story. The Red Flash had the 49ers on their toes, pressuring them with their blocking and attacking. Long Beach was limited to a .375 hitting percentage in the second set, and was completely out of sync after a call didn’t go its way.
Head coach Alan Knipe argued with one of the referees over a call that awarded Saint Francis a point and tied the game at 11. The 49ers missed their spots, both hitting and blocking, and kept the Red Flash afloat at 17-17 before Long Beach finally got it together to win the set.
“This Saint Francis team that we played, they’re looking like they’re going to go pretty far in the postseason and we expect to probably see them again,” associate head coach Nick McRae said.
Senior outside hitter Louis Richard was all over the court, posting nine kills, two assists, a service ace and five digs, earning him player of the match honors. His play ignited Long Beach, and it was able to breeze through Saint Francis in the third set to close out the match.
Next up is a Big West series against No. 4 UCSB with the first match 7 p.m. Thursday at the Walter Pyramid.