The No. 11 Long Beach State men’s volleyball team kept the mood light during Tuesday’s practice, using volleyballs to shoot hoops between drills in preparation for its first playoff match against No. 3 Hawaii.
The 49ers (15-12 overall, 11-11 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) enter the postseason as the No. 7 seed in the MPSF tournament. The Rainbow Warriors (23-5, 18-4 MPSF) earned the No. 2 seed.
LBSU junior outside hitter Andrew Whitt said his team is excited to head to Hawaii and fight for a win in the first round of the postseason.
“We’re ready to compete,” Whitt said. “We’re heading [into the playoffs] with a lot of steam right now. We’re going to have fun and it will be a good matchup against Hawaii.”
A senior-laden LBSU squad fell to Pepperdine last year in the quarterfinals. With a relatively young and inexperienced 49er team, head coach Alan Knipe said his guys are more than ready for the match even if they don’t have the knowledge or experience of playing in a postseason game.
“We’ve been preparing for this since September,” Knipe said. “Once we get a few points in the match, the attention to detail in our game plan and our system and the general overall competitiveness of the environment, they will be just fine.”
Hawaii is coming off of its first two-game series losing streak against No. 5 seed BYU in Utah over the weekend, snapping a 16-match winning streak.
“[Hawaii is] going to fight,” junior outside hitter John La Rusch said. “They always do no matter where they’re playing. They are doing very well this year and obviously don’t want to lose.”
LBSU fell to Hawaii in a two-game series on Feb. 27-28 inside the Walter Pyramid. Seniors Brook Sedore and Taylor Averill lead the Rainbow Warriors in kills per set with 2.86 and 2.08, respectively, on the season.
Hawaii will get another opportunity to play in front of its raucous home crowd that routinely packs the Stan Sheriff Center. The ‘Bows had a season-high 7,296 fans in attendance for Senior Night on April 11.
“A huge thing we’re working on right now is communication,” La Rusch said. “It’s going to [play] a huge part playing in Hawaii, especially with so many fans yelling out at some point. It’s going to be hard to hear ourselves think.”
This is the first time in five years that Hawaii has hosted an MPSF quarterfinal match, its last one being on April 24, 2010 against Pepperdine. The 49ers will look to snap the Rainbow Warriors’ eight-game home winning streak.
“It’s exactly the kind of environment that you want as a college athlete,” Knipe said. “At this time, whatever your record is, the only thing that changes at this point is whether you’re playing at home or playing on the road. It’s a wonderful experience that [Hawaii] can create with the crowd, the arena and television and I know our guys are fired up to go over there.”
The 49ers face off against Hawaii in the quarterfinal match on Saturday for the MPSF tournament starting at 10:30 p.m.