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The Big West men’s volleyball schedule features back-to-back matches for all league opponents, with the first match on Thursday, and the second on Friday. The unique configuration has led the coaches of the No. 2-ranked Long Beach State team to start referring to the two matches as halves of the same contest.
By that analogy, the Beach rallied from a tough first half (a five-set loss at UC Irvine Thursday) to come back and dominate the second half, as they swept the Anteaters 25-22, 25-18, 25-20.
“When you get the loss (on the first night) you’re eager to turn around and get back out there,” said LBSU coach Alan Knipe. “What we always talk about is it’s two halves of a game…it happens to be in a different venue but it’s a continuation of the game.”
On Thursday in Irvine, Long Beach won the first two sets before ultimately dropping the contest in five sets. The difference for the Anteaters was the Beach struggled to handle their powerful service game. That story was flipped on its head Friday night, as the Beach gave up one ace (as opposed to 12 on Thursday), and hit .320 as a team to Irvine’s .104.
“I think a lot of the credit goes to (setter Aidan Knipe) because even when we were pulling him away from the net with a pass he was putting it in the right spot,” said outside hitter Spencer Olivier, who had 11 kills, five digs, and four blocks.
Knipe had 31 assists, two digs, and three blocks. As usual, libero Mason Briggs was a ball of energy all match, with eight digs as well as 16 serve receives, with no errors.
He said there was no secret to the team’s improvement from Thursday to Friday.
“It’s going back and watching some film, marking down where we can get some points, and then really just going back out there and performing,” he said.
Knipe, too, dismissed the idea that the drastic change in the outcome was a result of tinking among coaches.
“It wasn’t as much the coaches as that these guys are pretty proud and pretty prepped and they take it seriously,” he said.
Freshman Alex Nikolov had 11 kills, an ace, two digs, and four blocks.
Long Beach State (11-3, 1-1) will host Concordia on Friday back at the Walter Pyramid. Knipe said he’s expecting the Big West to be a battle this year–the Beach are tied with Hawaii, UC Irvine, and San Diego at 1-1, trailing only UCSB who are a perfect 3-0.
“The competition will be just like it was this weekend,” he said. “Teams have good arms, the Big West is loaded. You have to prep emotionally and physically for matches, and expect them to be slightly different on the second night. You’re going to have to win different ways. Tonight we won the serving and passing battle which allowed us to win the blocking battle. To me you’d like to win all the components all the time, but it’s not always going to happen.”