Daily 49er

LBSU looks for redemption in its upcoming season

With new faces, Beach volleyball hopes to take the NCAA championship.

Anete+Brinke+%28left%29+and+Claire+Newlander+%28right%29+congratulate+each+other+after+getting+a+point+at+the+alumni+match+on+Feb.+24.++
Anete Brinke (left) and Claire Newlander (right) congratulate each other after getting a point at the alumni match on Feb. 24.

Anete Brinke (left) and Claire Newlander (right) congratulate each other after getting a point at the alumni match on Feb. 24.

Samantha Diaz | Daily 49er

Samantha Diaz | Daily 49er

Anete Brinke (left) and Claire Newlander (right) congratulate each other after getting a point at the alumni match on Feb. 24.

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After dropping two sets to LSU in the NCAA championships last year, the Long Beach beach volleyball team packed their bags and headed home heartbroken.  

No. 7 LBSU (0-0) is ready to come back stronger this year and take the NCAA championship after losing to Pepperdine and LSU last season.

After finishing 26-10 in the last year, the team is primed with young talent and seasoned veterans ready to rise in the ranks and take it all home. The season begins with two matchups at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday against CSUN and Bakersfield at Northridge, both Big West opponents.

The team has a historical season to live up to after reaching its first NCAA Beach Volleyball Championship appearance and finishing ranked No. 7. With many of the players from last season graduated, the team is looking for a way to expand on its last accomplishments while successfully mixing old and new players. Developing the new players while still capitalizing on the talent on the team is vital to the coaching staff.  

Head coach Mike Campbell, who is also the assistant coach of the women’s volleyball team, said the two things the team has to focus on are building relationships and increasing competitiveness.

A game built between two

One of the main points of focus for this team is to have better communication on and off the floor. A large emphasis for the season falls on how well the players can connect with each other.

“One of the most important things is building relationships and it’s hard to develop those relationships in such a short window,” Campbell said. “A lot of these girls haven’t played together for more than six or eight weeks so I think that’s a big challenge to get to a point where we’re vulnerable and we trust each other and that makes things a little bit smoother as we go through the year. It’s definitely an uphill battle but the kids are working really hard and they’re a good group.”

While most of the team consists of fresh faces coming in, seniors Nele Barber and Rachel Nieto who went 25-11 last season as a team, are on the back end of their career playing at Long Beach State. The pair said they are eager to share what they’ve learned with the newcomers and improve their own game for what they think will be the best season yet.

“Because we’ve been here for so long…we know the Long Beach State traditions and culture so I think it’s nice for them to look up to us in those aspects,” Nieto said.

The girls were also named AVCA First-Team All-Americans and All-Big West selections last May after winning fourteen straight matches to start off the 2017 season. This season is their last to leave a mark in Long Beach State history, a challenge they’re eager to take on.

“I think we’re going in with a lot of excitement to make this the best season ever, but it’s going to be a little sad once it’s over,” Barber said. “We prepare so hard and so far in advance, we know what we need to do to beat the teams, it’s just a matter of execution.”

Areas of Improvement

One of Long Beach’s biggest downfalls last season was its inability to close matches. Campbell emphasized that this was an aspect the team has been working on in preseason and practices, figuring out ways to finish those close matches on top. The team has been working on endgame situations to prepare themselves for high pressure games.

“These are tough kids, they work their butt off but I think in competition we just need to be a little bit tougher and that might lead to better choices,” Campbell said. “We’ll focus a lot on our overall game and…making sure these kids understand their choices and they’re not just winning by luck and they’re really understanding the strategies that go into the sport.”

Along with the emphasis on competitiveness, there’s also a pull to change the approach against many teams, as the schedule has the team facing top teams throughout the season.

“I think we’re just trying to be a lot more dynamic than we have been in the past so when the situation presents itself we can be ready to run different plays against our opponents,” Nieto said. “Because in the past it’s been pretty static.”

Making these changes, Long Beach hopes to redeem itself from last year’s loss and carve a new path toward NCAA champions.

“I don’t get nervous about teams,” Barber said. “Our motto is to be fearless. I think with every match you get butterflies before but we prepare so hard and so far in advance, we know what we need to do to beat the teams. It’s just a matter of execution.”

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