“Row! Row! Row!”
The Walter Pyramid is drowned with the deafening chants from fans and teammates alike as Number 19 calmly walks to the service line.
No. 4 Long Beach State (10-1) men’s volleyball is rich with tradition, but a new trend has taken over when junior outside hitter Ethan Siegfried is up to serve.
On the sideline, teammates can be seen imitating a rowing motion while fans raise to their feet in anticipation.
“It was freshman year, I think it was [former player] Matt Butler started doing [the rowing] as I got in to serve,” Siegfried said. “I don’t know where that inspiration came from, but I love it, it’s fun.”
Siegfried has an all-around game that keeps him on the floor. He ranks second on the team in kills with 115 with a team-high 3.03 kills per set, and is fourth in digs per set at 1.60 and tied for third in overall blocks with 21.
But what sets apart the 6-foot-1-inch undersized outside hitter is his menacing jump serve that can fluster opposing teams.
“As he got more and more comfortable in our gym, the one thing that kept standing out was how well he was serving the ball and how much problems he was causing us in practice on the other side [of the net],” head coach Alan Knipe said.
So far this season, Siegfried is second on the team with nine service aces with .24 service aces per set.
In his freshman year with the Beach, Siegfried only played in 38 out of 101 sets, but tallied nine aces when he burst onto the scene with crucial contributions in the 2018 postseason run.
“That became something we needed to try to start using in matches,” Knipe said. “It ended up being great for us and it came up really big in the playoffs.”
Siegfried followed up his breakout rookie year by playing in 82 sets as a sophomore, becoming a full-time contributor while tallying 18 service aces, 79 kills, 63 digs and 21 blocks.
A native of Honolulu, Hawai’i, Siegfried was introduced to volleyball when he was 10 years old, playing in the backyard with his dad Christian and his older brother Noa. At age 12 he officially began playing competitive volleyball.
Siegfried grew up a fan of the University of Hawai’i men’s volleyball team, frequently attending matches that grew his excitement for the sport.
Despite being a fan of the Rainbow Warriors, Siegfried came to Long Beach State because of coach Knipe’s historic coaching background, which includes coaching the 2012 U.S. Olympic men’s volleyball team.
“It felt like I was given a better opportunity here being an undersized outside hitter, and I bought into the culture [Knipe] was selling me,” Siegfried said. “I felt like it would be the best fit to try and become the best player I could be.”
Transitioning from Hawai’i to California was smooth for Siegfried, who attended Punahou School in Honolulu.
Siegfried already knew of players going to the mainland from Hawai’i, such as outside hitter Taylor Crabb, who played for the Beach from 2011-14 and is currently playing in the Association of Volleyball Professionals.
Back in his prep days at Punahou in 2015, Siegfried and the boy’s volleyball team faced Huntington Beach High School in the Clash of the Titans event. Former Long Beach players TJ DeFalco and Josh Tuaniga both played for the Oilers that year.
“Seeing them was pretty wild, just being a sophomore and hearing about them was crazy,” Siegfried said. “Seeing them in person and knowing of their reputation was unreal to play against.”
Their first meeting wasn’t the nicest being on opposite sides of the net, as Siegfried recalled he went in and set the ball three times, but Tuaniga stuffed him on each kill attempt.
“Once I got [to Long Beach], I asked them about it and they were like, ‘Oh yeah that’s right,’ and we were just laughing about the whole game, but it was fun,” Siegfried said.
As one of few returning players from the back-to-back NCAA championship teams, Siegfried is making sure to pass along the knowledge he learned from his predecessors.
“When we lose one or two points in a row, we need to be able to flip that mindset of next ball mentality,” Siegfried said. “[We try] to do whatever we can to win that next point because that was something TJ and Josh and those seniors [from last year] were really good at.”
Long Beach begins Big West Conference play at home at the Walter Pyramid against No. 3 UC Santa Barbara Thursday, March 12 at 7 p.m.