Looking to build on its six-game win streak, Long Beach State’s undefeated men’s volleyball sets its sights on a pair of matches against number four ranked UCLA to close out the week.
The two Southern California powerhouses met in the Final Four last season with The Beach pulling off a reverse sweep to advance to the National Championship where the team was eventually swept by Hawaii.
In their last match, the Bruins were defeated by No. 3 Penn State 3-1, a team that LBSU defeated 3-1 on Jan. 25.
“We try not to get too caught up in any of that stuff, you know Penn State’s a good team, we had some close sets with them,” head coach Alan Knipe said. “This week will stand on its own, you know, completely separate from anything that happened with Penn State matches.”
For the first time this season outside of exhibition matches, The Beach was pushed to a fifth set against Loyola Chicago on Feb. 3, giving the team its only real scare of the season.
Junior outside hitter Clarke Godbold continued to perform after being named the AVCA National Player of the Week in the week prior, as he posted a career-high 20-kill game at the Walter Pyramid.
“I’m for sure excited. A lot of the last game had to do because of our middles and they played really well. And Aidan (Knipe) opened up our offense,” Godbold said.
Against UCLA in the Final Four match last season Godbold played all five sets, putting up the second most kills for The Beach with 11. It was a huge outing for him that night as he also posted 16 errorless swings and now holds the highest attacking percentage of any LBSU player in an NCAA tournament match.
Playing back-to-back nights against UCLA puts the team in a situation that Knipe described as similar to what happens at the Big West and NCAA tournament where the teams are playing multiple games in a short span of days.
“I mean, they’re really no different than any other team. They’re our next opponent,” Godbold said. “But we’re not going to treat them any differently. And we’re gonna gameplan and scout just like we do every other team.”
With the current win streaks for both men’s and women’s basketball, as well as volleyball’s six-game streak, the student section at the Walter Pyramid has been electric and packed.
The enthusiasm from the fans is something The Beach looks to lean on when UCLA visits for Friday night’s finale.
“I think it’s important for the fans to know that,” Knipe said. “It generally gives the guys some energy, you know playing in front of a bigger crowd they certainly seem to enjoy it.”
Still finding himself in the libero role junior Mason Briggs has played every set this season and has been pivotal to solidifying The Beach’s defense. He was another familiar face seen on the court in the Final Four match last season and had averaged 3.0 digs per set over LBSU’s first six matches.
“You can hype it up with some significance because we played them last year, but we do play them every year. Luckily, we play them twice every year,” Briggs said. “It’s good to get this good high level competition. And early on.”