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Long Beach State men’s volleyball team prepares for semifinal against BYU

Long Beach State men’s volleyball takes on BYU in semifinals of NCAA Tournament.

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Long Beach State men’s volleyball team gathers around its MPSF Championship trophy after defeating Hawa’i in four sets April 22.

Long Beach State men’s volleyball team gathers around its MPSF Championship trophy after defeating Hawa’i in four sets April 22.

Bobby Yagake

Bobby Yagake

Long Beach State men’s volleyball team gathers around its MPSF Championship trophy after defeating Hawa’i in four sets April 22.

Matthew Simon, Sports Editor

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As the Long Beach State men’s volleyball team prepares for its Final Four matchup against Brigham Young University tonight in Columbus, Ohio – there’s a sense of familiarity and caution as the team knows anything can happen when you get into the postseason.

LBSU (27-3, 16-2 MPSF) faced BYU (25-4) twice in the regular season, dropping the first match in Provo in five sets March 25, before winning the second match in a sweep the following night.

“They’re a very physical team, whether they’re in system or out of system — they have the capability to go over the block, so that presents some different issues that other teams don’t have,” LBSU senior libero Andrew Sato said.

While the team is the higher seed, the players are prepared and know that anything can happen when the match starts.

“We still have a lot of challenges ahead of us,” LBSU senior middle blocker Bryce Yould said. “[and] we still have to bring our A game.”

The 49ers will look to avenge their season-ending loss to BYU May 5 in the semifinals of last year’s tournament.

Last year, LBSU was a young team starting three freshmen from the start of the season. But, with a more experienced team the 49ers led the nation with a .371 hitting percentage.

“It’s all credit to our passers,” senior middle blocker Amir Lugo-Rodriguez said.

Sophomore setter Josh Tuaniga, named 2017 Setter of the Year, was one piece that was credited with helping LBSU return to the postseason.

“[Tuaniga] is one of the most talented setters in the nation,” Yould said. “It’s pretty fun to be able to have him on our team.”

Along with the team’s recent success, the semifinals will be another addition to the growing history of LBSU and BYU being two of the nation’s most storied programs.

Sato went on to talk about how difficult it is to play in Provo and how it will be playing at a neutral site.

“Ever since my freshman year, it’s always been a big rivalry,” Sato said. “I know going to [BYU] is always tough, so being able to get away is nice.”

The team noted that the gym in Provo is usually jam-packed when BYU hosts teams, but also mentioned that the Cougars have a solid following who travels with the team.

“I think they’ll be able to bring as many fans as they would in Provo,” Yould said. “Maybe, not quite as many. [There’s] definitely going to be quite a few BYU fans there, but I think [the game will] come down to whoever is on their game that night.”

BYU also noted the history between the two programs and is looking forward for the matchup.

“I think it’s just fun to place a team like Long Beach that’s going to pose a new challenge to us every single time and challenge for us to get better,” BYU senior opposite hitter Ben Patch said.

The two teams will face off in the St. John Arena at 3 p.m. Coverage of the semifinals will be streamed on NCAA.com. LBSU and BYU will be streamed first with Ohio State and Hawai’i being streamed at 5 p.m.

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