“Mason Briggs! Big West Co-Freshman of the Year!”
The morning of April 21, Long Beach State freshman libero Mason Briggs awoke to his brother Trevor, a former Beach men’s volleyball player himself, filling the house with jubilation.
Scrolling through his Twitter feed, Trevor came upon the announcement, his younger brother had just been named AVCA Big West Co-Freshman of the Year, given an All-Big West Honorable Mention and claimed a spot on the All-Freshman Team.
“Liberos aren’t typically picked for this type of award,” Briggs said. “I was shocked when I heard.”
Briggs stepped into the role of defensive leader early, but he said he couldn’t have done it without the support of his teammates.
“My first thoughts go to the team, I win this award, but it’s a team effort,” Briggs said. “I obviously couldn’t do it without them, especially coming in as a freshman with the older guys trusting in me.”
Contributing immediately as a freshman for No. 4 Long Beach (9-1) was one of his main goals coming into the season. Briggs had to look towards his teammates to trust in him while hoping to lead the back-to-back champs to another NCAA National championship.
“The older guys trusted in me, letting me lead in certain areas of the game,” Briggs said. “Building that trust through the season, even when it was cut short, it was becoming a pretty cool thing.”
Due to stay-at-home orders, Briggs was unable to celebrate with his teammates and coaching staff to show his appreciation for the hard work he felt the whole program contributed to winning the award.
“I was really excited about coming in, I had a lot to work on and improve,” Briggs said. “I came into our fall season two weeks late because I was playing with the USA youth national team, so I missed a couple of things. I had to build that trust and those relationships early on with not being there from the start.”
Briggs had to earn his starting spot among the seniors to build chemistry and trust in order to be the team’s defensive specialist.
“Trust is something that is earned over repeatable action, Mason is what we call a top-ten percenter in our program,” Long Beach State head coach Alan Knipe said. “He commits himself to not do what is just asked from him, but he constantly is finding ways to get better on his own, and trying to find things from the coaching staff that makes him the best player he is capable of being.”
Briggs showed a leadership mindset early on in the season and backed it up with his production on the court, ending the season tied for the third-most sets played for the Beach, only behind standout juniors Simon Anderson and Carlos Rivera.
Briggs led the team in digs with 89 on the season and averaged a team-best 2.34 per set, also good for second overall in the Big West. Briggs posted nine or more digs in six games this season, with a season-high 15 against No. 9 UCLA Feb. 29.
“For me, it was a lot of growth and every week talking with our coaches,” Briggs said. “Setting my own goals, week by week breaking it down, I started to feel a lot of improvement going into the meat of our season about to start conference play.”
Unfortunately, the Beach had its chance at a three-peat attempt stolen six days before the beginning of conference play.
But instead of thinking about what could have been, Briggs is focusing on his sophomore season by training in his cul-de-sac with a chalk-drawn half court and the support of his brother Trevor.
“It is easy to fall into this quarantine thing,” Briggs said. “It is easy to say ‘Oh I’m not going to do this and use this time to rest.’ Flip that mindset, and use this time to improve and not let it be lost.”