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The start of a new era under Joy McKienzie-Fuerbringer

After struggling in the beginning of last season, the 49ers are ready to go all the way.

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The start of a new era under Joy McKienzie-Fuerbringer

The team huddles up as they score against the alumni team Saturday
evening at Walter Pyramid.

The team huddles up as they score against the alumni team Saturday evening at Walter Pyramid.

Alex Naveja

The team huddles up as they score against the alumni team Saturday evening at Walter Pyramid.

Alex Naveja

Alex Naveja

The team huddles up as they score against the alumni team Saturday evening at Walter Pyramid.

Kevin Colindres, Staff Writer

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The women’s volleyball program has a big change this year with the departure of head coach Brian Gimmillaro, who retired last season after a 32-year coaching career at LBSU. Filling this vacancy in the program is Joy McKienzie-Fuerbringer, and with her arrival comes the ushering in of a new style of play .

After a strong finish last year, the women’s volleyball team is looking to bounce back in the upcoming season. A rough start nailed them with a record of 7-8, but the 49ers were finally able to find a rhythm, finishing the season with a record of 25-10. Even with a muddy start the 49ers were able to reign second in the Big West behind Hawai’i.

Gimmillaro had a win percentage of .794, which is 11th all-time in NCAA history. That included 835 wins, which was also 11th all-time in NCAA history. He defined the winning culture that LBSU has today, leading the team to many degrees of success.

While the transition of coaches can be difficult, the 49ers’ new hire looks to make the move easier.

McKienzie-Fuerbringer, who played under Gimmillaro at LBSU as an All-American setter for the Beach and helped lead the program to its second national championship in 1993, was named the the new coach during the offseason. During her championship run she earned First Team All-Big West and First Team All-Northwest Region Honors. With over 20 years of coaching experience, McKienzie-Fuerbringer is prepared to lead the team to success.

This is the second time athletic director Andy Fee has hired someone who has previously coached for LBSU. Fee hired former assistant Jeff Cammon to be the women’s basketball head coach this year.

Key returners include senior Ashley Murray, who was named All-Big West first team, and YiZhi Xue, who was named Big West First Team and placed on the All-freshman team.

Murray averaged 2.47 kills/set and 0.83 blocks/set while ranking eighth in the Big West with a hitting percentage of .310. She was also second on the team with 289 kills. Xue led the team with 122 total blocks, averaging 1.04 blocks/set while also finishing third on the team with 22 kills averaging 1.90 per set and led the team with a hitting percentage of .345 as a freshmen.

Also making a return is sophomore Hailey Harward, who had a productive first year playing for the Beach, averaging 4.09 digs per set while also being named All-freshmen. Harward had 20 matches with more than 10 digs and three with more than 20 digs.

With seven new freshmen on the team, the 49ers look to integrate them into their system quickly and continue the pace they were on toward the end of the season last year. After finishing second in the Big West two years in a row, LBSU hopes to be on top by the end of the season.

The 49ers will have to protect the Pyramid as they begin their season with the LBSU invitational facing Stanford and Wright State on Friday and Iowa on Saturday.

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