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The 49ers face difficult challenges as postseason approaches

Long+Beach+State+middle+blocker+Taylor+Gregory+attacks+the+ball+against+two+USC+defenders+on+March+20+in+the+Walter+Pyramid.+The+Beach+fell+to+the+Trojans+in+a+close+five+game+matchup.
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The 49ers face difficult challenges as postseason approaches

Long Beach State middle blocker Taylor Gregory attacks the ball against two USC defenders on March 20 in the Walter Pyramid. The Beach fell to the Trojans in a close five game matchup.

Long Beach State middle blocker Taylor Gregory attacks the ball against two USC defenders on March 20 in the Walter Pyramid. The Beach fell to the Trojans in a close five game matchup.

Bobby Yagake

Long Beach State middle blocker Taylor Gregory attacks the ball against two USC defenders on March 20 in the Walter Pyramid. The Beach fell to the Trojans in a close five game matchup.

Bobby Yagake

Bobby Yagake

Long Beach State middle blocker Taylor Gregory attacks the ball against two USC defenders on March 20 in the Walter Pyramid. The Beach fell to the Trojans in a close five game matchup.

Kayce Contatore, Contributing Writer

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In a league loaded with top ranked teams, the No. 9 Long Beach State men’s volleyball team’s inexperience may cost them in the postseason.

Head coach Alan Knipe has reiterated all season that the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation is the most difficult league in the country, and the NCAA stats seem to support that.

Nine schools from the MPSF hold a spot in the top 15 Division I rankings, including No. 1 Hawaii. 16 of the last 22 NCAA National Champions have come from the MPSF, the most recent being UC Irvine in 2013.

The top eight schools in the MPSF will advance to the tourney, and the 49ers currently hold the No. 7 spot in the league. It would not bode for well for LBSU’s chances if stayed in the seventh spot, where it would face either UC Irvine or Hawaii.

With the MPSF tournament quickly approaching, it is imperative more than ever for the 49ers to show they belong among the best.

The farthest the 49ers have advanced in the MPSF tournament was in 2013 when they lost to BYU. LBSU recorded one its best season in schools history with a 24-8 overall record in 2013. Led by a senior squad in 2014, the 49ers were unable to get past Pepperdine in the tourney quarterfinals.

The top teams in the MPSF such as Hawaii, BYU, USC and Pepperdine have senior laden squads, all of whom have played together for many years. By comparison, the only returning starter for LBSU was junior middle blocker Taylor Gregory.

Many of the 49ers’ key contributors this season — such as junior opposite hitter Cody Martin and sophomore setter Curtis Stallings — either redshirted or had limited playing time off the bench last season.

The 49ers struggled after starting the season with a four-game winning streak. LBSU’s youth was on display when it was swept against tougher competition such as UC Irvine, BYU and USC.

With just five matches left before the start of postseason play, the 49ers are quickly running out of opportunities to improve. The competition won’t be getting any easier as other teams in conference prepare themselves for the grueling tournament to come.

With the passion and drive that is carried into each match they play, the 49ers have the opportunity to make a statement in their upcoming matches against Pepperdine and UC Irvine.

Like college basketball, March is the month for Cinderella teams in volleyball’s postseason. The 49ers can still make a dream come true and bring home not only an MPSF Championship title, but also an NCAA Championship.

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