No. 3 Long Beach State men’s volleyball took on No. 4 Penn State Saturday night in a back-and-forth match that went the distance.
The Beach would end up losing in a 3-2 match [27-25, 25-21, 25-20, 23-25, 11-15] that would end a five-game winning streak to start the season and a three-game winning streak against Penn State.
“It certainly wasn’t the cleanest match or the prettiest match,” head coach Alan Knipe said. “There was a lot of good that happened. It just wasn’t a lot of good for a long enough period tonight.”
Both LBSU and Penn State got off to a slow start both offensively and defensively. By the end of the first set, LBSU racked up seven attack errors, while Penn State had nine. No team seemed to find a groove offensively as the first set saw eight ties between the two teams before The Beach took it away in overtime.
“I don’t think we were freed up to hit our serves,” Knipe said. “I’m big on our guys trusting their toss and routine, but I don’t think we were free enough to do that.”
The second set was just as close as the first, with the teams within five points of each other the whole time. However, Penn State squeaked out the second set to tie up the match.
Once the third set came around, LBSU had cleaned up their offensive game and had their best run of the night. The offense was starting to get in rhythm and they were scoring a lot as they did against No.9 Ohio State on Friday night. The Beach would gain a six-point lead, which was their highest of the night.
Freshman phenom, Alex Nikolov continued his hot start to his collegiate career, earning 23 kills on the night. Setter Aidan Knipe saw a lot of action as well, earning a season-high 52 assists.
After taking the third set, The Beach and Penn State battled it out in a highly contested fourth set. LBSU looked to close it out, but Penn State’s offense wouldn’t let up. The teams traded points the whole way before Penn State took it, 25-23, forcing a fifth set.
“[The trouble] started with Penn State’s serving,” libero Mason Briggs said. “They ripped and didn’t miss a lot, and that kept the pressure on us.”
The start of the fifth set started out the same way most of the match had gone, back-and-forth, both teams trading kills. The Beach however let the lead slip away, making Penn State victorious.
“We pride ourselves on being composed and being able to execute late, but the bottom line is we didn’t execute,” Knipe said. “The fight was there, but it doesn’t matter because we weren’t able to convert at the end.”
The Beach will take on No. 10 USC on Feb. 4 before playing two games against UCLA on Feb. 11 and 19.
“We have to build from the good of this match and learn from the bad of this match and play complete volleyball,” Knipe said. “We need to apply the lessons learned into our training and have it be visible in our next competition.”