The regular season has ended for the Long Beach State men’s volleyball team, but now it’s the beginning of the quest for a national championship.
After finishing the season with back-to-back wins inside the Walter Pyramid, Long Beach (25-1, 10-0 Big West) will head into the Big West tournament as the top seed.
The tournament kicks off Thursday 8 p.m. in the Stan Sheriff Center in Hawaii with four teams competing in the quarterfinals. Both Long Beach and Hawai’i will have a bye and face the winners of the matches played Thursday.
Here are the matchups for Thursday’s games:
No. 3 UC Irvine will square off against No. 6 UC San Diego 5 p.m. and the winner will face No. 2 Hawai’i 10:30 p.m Friday.
No. 4 UC Santa Barbara will battle with No. 5 CSUN, with the winner facing No. 1 Long Beach State 8 p.m. Friday.
Saturday’s championship match will kick off 11 p.m., with the winner receiving an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament hosted in the Walter Pyramid.
Head coach Alan Knipe described the difficulty and intensity the 49ers need to have now that the postseason is here.
“The margins get thinner now,” Knipe said. “You’re no longer seeing any teams that aren’t going to be able stress you in certain areas and perform and have some balance to what they can do on the court.”
Long Beach lead with its high-powered offense, ranking No. 2 in the nation at .414. The 49ers will receive an extra offensive weapon with sophomore outside hitter Ethan Siegfried inserted into the starting lineup.
After being inserted into the lineup for senior outside hitter Louis Richard in Saturday’s matchup, Siegfried responded to the call with a 16 kill, 10 dig and four block performance, which earned him Big West defensive player of the week.
“It would be wrong for me not to address the fact that Ethan played tremendous in a big moment and brought a really good spark to our team and gave us a different look,” Knipe said. “I feel like I’m in a great situation that I’ve got two guys ready for that spot.”
Carrying the Big West Player of the Year in senior opposite Kyle Ensing, along with three other first-team all-conference players in seniors TJ DeFalco, Josh Tuaniga and Nick Amado, the 49ers will have plenty of momentum going into the tournament.
“It’s just kind of a flip of the switch,” Ensing said. “Now it’s playoff time, it’s time to go and time to show the world that we can do it.”
Long Beach will play the winner of UCSB vs. CSUN 8 p.m. Friday in the Stan Sheriff Center.