After losing for the first time in almost a year, No. 2 Long Beach men’s volleyball wrapped up non-conference games and will resume conference play with No. 7 UC Irvine Friday night in its sight.
The 49ers (19-1, 4-0 Big West) will kick off the black and blue rivalry on the road where they’ll travel to the Bren Events Center to take on the Anteaters (14-7, 2-2 Big West) after a tough outing Saturday night.
Long Beach struggled in its last matchup against USC hitting .215, well below its .429 average, which is good for second in the nation. The 49ers’ high-powered offense is highlighted by senior opposite Kyle Ensing and senior outside hitter TJ DeFalco, who are hitting .362 and .403, respectively.
After a disappointing outing on the road against the Trojans, the 49ers are hoping for different results during this road match in order to keep their undefeated conference record alive. Long Beach has won its last seven matches against Irvine, with its last loss to the Anteaters in 2015.
“We know exactly the things that we would like to be better at,” head coach Alan Knipe said. “We know the things that we’re focused on and we need to play with the right sense of urgency from whistle to whistle and stack points. When we’re at our best, we’re focused almost exclusively on us and what we can control.”
Some of the things Long Beach will be looking to control is how it starts off each set. In its last match, the 49ers started off each set trailing their opponent before eventually being swept, the first time since 2017. The team has given up plenty of service errors in its last few matchups, which has caused it to lose the first set the past three matches.
“You don’t have to win every point and you don’t even have to be up early in a set to be totally invested in the match, but you can’t be giving away free points that are self-induced because you’re not invested in the match,” Knipe said. “We need to get ourselves ready to go earlier in matches and we need to continue to make sure that serving and passing is a big part of this game and that we’re totally focused on both sides [of the ball].”
Long Beach will face UC Irvine Friday 7 p.m. in the Bren Events Center.