Despite serving No. 1 Long Beach State’s one of only three total losses on the season in January, the men’s volleyball team was not able to pull off the upset on Saturday in the first round of the MPSF Tournament. The Trojans saw their season end after taking the second set and finishing the rest of the sets within 3, 7 and 2 points.
“I think we played really well the entire match,” senior middle blocker Andy Benesh said. “I’m not sure what they hit tonight but I’m sure it’s not on par with what they usually hit. And we dug it past really well so we gave ourselves a chance.”
Senior outside hitter Lucas Yoder, who was named to the 2017 MPSF First Team last week, notched a match-high 23 kills, but even that was not enough for the Trojans to clinch a victory. The sets themselves were close, but Long Beach State finished with eight aces and 11.5 blocks as USC earned zero aces and only five blocks.
In the first set, the Trojans were neck-and-neck with Long Beach State until a 4-point run put the 49ers out of reach to end the set at 25-22. USC out-hit them in both total number and in percentage.
For the second set, USC fell behind early, but they brought the set to a tie at 22-22 and finished with both a hit and a Long Beach State hitting error to take the set 26-24. Again, they out-hit the 49ers with 17-12 total kills and hit .225 to their .179, but it was Long Beach State’s passing that helped clinch it in the end as they had 19 digs in the second set alone.
Even with the momentum in favor of USC going into the third set, Long Beach State came out strong to take a 7-2 lead that it would never relinquish. The Trojans could not regain the momentum that had propelled them through to the end of the second set. In part, this was due to the 49ers having only one hitting error and four aces in the set alone.
From the beginning of the fourth set, it seemed that Long Beach State was going to take it. It carried through most of the set, with the 49ers being ahead 21-17 at one point. However, as in the second set, the Trojans managed to make a comeback and bring it to 22-all. But it wasn’t enough, ending the team’s season.
After not even making the tournament last year, the team doubled its total wins to finish the season 14-14. While the end of the tournament run means the end of Trojan volleyball for the five seniors, the progression from last year leaves hope for the future of this team.
“We fought the entire time,” senior outside hitter Christopher Orenic said. “These young guys have a lot of heart, and I can’t wait to see what they do next season and the following season. They have a lot of talent, and this is going to be a good team.”