Men’s volleyball wins home opener against Hawaii

Jason Clark, Sports Editor

The ninth-ranked Long Beach State men’s volleyball team won a seesaw match with Hawaii in its home opener Friday night and followed it up with a dominating victory in a rematch on Saturday.

The Beach (5-2, 3-1 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) cruised to an opening-set victory before splitting four competitive sets with the Warriors (1-6, 0-4 MPSF) in Friday’s opener, which it won 25-17, 25-23, 22-25, 27-29 and 16-14.

The match was head coach Alan Knipe’s first at the Walter Pyramid since taking a leave of absence four years ago to coach the United States men’s volleyball team in the London Olympics.

“The Pyramid is the best place to play volleyball in America,” Knipe said. “Just to even be in the building was fun, but once the competition started, I didn’t start thinking much about whether it was going to be the first one or any of that kind of stuff.”

After leading wire-to-wire in the first set, the ‘Niners got out to a slow start in the second. They fell behind 11-2 early on, but eventually tied the set at 23 before scoring the final two points to go ahead of the Warriors two sets to none.

The next two sets featured an abundance of ties and a pair of Hawaii wins. With the match all evened up at two sets apiece, the 49ers took control of the fifth. They eventually let Hawaii back into it though and had to play an extra point to earn the win.

Knipe said he wasn’t worried about a performance in which his team accumulated 25 errors and couldn’t pull away from the one-win Warriors.

“We’re not going to apologize for winning an early-season five-gamer,” he said. “Those are important matches for us along the way. It was a character builder and in a lot of ways just about gutting it out.”

Knipe wouldn’t have to endure another gutted-out win though, as the 49ers took control early and often in Saturday night’s rematch.

LBSU cruised to a three-set sweep that featured 45 kills, 32 digs and just 10 errors in a 25-14, 25-18 and 25-18 win.

“We were clearly more consistent tonight,” Knipe said. “We were playing well and didn’t let them get back into it.”

The 49ers’ talent shined through a little brighter, as the strategy and lineup didn’t change much between the two games.

“85 percent of what we did tonight was the same as what we did last time,” Knipe said. “We were just trying to do it better.”

Leading the 49ers over the two matches was outside hitter Taylor Crabb. The junior totaled 37 kills and hit at a blistering .522 clip in the second match. He has excelled during LBSU’s three-game win streak, which includes a 3-1 upset of No. 5 UCLA on the road.

“Knipe has come in and we’ve scratched out anything we’ve ever learned and started from the beginning,” Crabb said. “It was tough at first, but with our win streak, we can tell that everybody’s starting to figure it out and it’s coming together.”

Up next on the 49ers’ schedule is a road match at No. 1 UC Irvine. The Anteaters swept LBSU earlier in the year at the UC Santa Barbara Invitational. Start time is set for 7 p.m. Friday night.