LOS ANGELES –– The gym was small and humid, and the crowd was noisy, rowdy and too much to handle for Long Beach men’s volleyball as it suffered its first loss of the season to No. 11 USC.
For the first time since the 2017 NCAA Semifinals, No. 1 Long Beach (19-1) was swept 25-21, 25-21, 25-17. Looking lifeless, the 49ers hit an uncharacteristic .215 as a team.
The 49ers were rattled and trailed the entire match against the Trojans (13-8) inside the North Gym, a venue reminiscent of a small high school gym with limited seating. USC came out aggressive while Long Beach faltered and failed to gain momentum for any hope of a comeback.
“Tonight was a match for us that just was a struggle to stay consistent at pretty much every area of the game, but the biggest one was effort and energy and that’s something we haven’t seen much of in two years,” head coach Alan Knipe said. “I’m real surprised at how long it took to respond. We’re such a good team at responding and I have every faith in the world that we’re going to respond really well with how we train.”
Long Beach, however, had no response for USC’s senior outside hitter Ryan Moss and redshirt senior outside hitter Jack Wyett, who crushed the 49ers with 14 and 13 kills, respectively. Although the Trojans were the clear aggressor tonight, the 49ers didn’t help themselves with the many service and hitting errors they had. Just like the first matchup against Santa Barbara Mar. 14, Long Beach had seven service errors alone in the first set and did not recover the rest of the match.
Senior outside hitter TJ DeFalco had 8 kills on a .100 hitting percentage, while senior opposite Kyle Ensing had 9 kills hitting .154. The 49ers missed spots and were bothered by the ball hitting the ceiling of the North Gym a few times in each set. These conditions took a toll on the team in the third set where the Trojans fully outplayed them in every aspect, completing the sweep they easily handled.
“I’m not one to ever say losses are good, I think you can learn the same lessons from wins. Finding a way to gut it out, maybe even play as well as you wanted to,” Knipe said. “What we’ll find out after this upcoming week, [is] how we respond to the adversity and what our response looks like.
Long Beach will look to redeem itself against UC Irvine 7 p.m. Friday in the Walter Pyramid.