In an impressive and dominant effort before more than 1,000 fans on Saturday night, the Long Beach State men’s volleyball team proved they’re ready for the spotlight. The No. 2 49ers played host to an MPSF quarterfinals match against Stanford, and proved their quality, sweeping the visiting Cardinal 25-21, 25-17, 30-28.
“The way we game-planned it played out real well,” said head coach Alan Knipe, who admitted that he thought the match would be more closely contested throughout. “The third set was more how I thought it would go,” he said.
The first two were laughers, with the only time Long Beach trailed being after Stanford went up 3-1 in the second set.
In the first, the 49ers jumped out to an 8-4 lead thanks to a Stanford error-fueled 4-0 Long Beach State run. From there, they managed every Cardinal run with poise, answering a 4-0 run with a 5-1 run, and a late 3-0 charge to pull within two with a 3-0 run of their own to close it out. In all, Stanford committed nine hitting and service errors in the first set—the 49ers equaled that, but their 12 digs made the difference, as four different players registered multiple digs. The 49ers hit .265 to Stanford’s .133 in the opening frame.
Ian Satterfield essentially served up the second set victory in the middle of the frame, when he held the back line for a 6-0 run that extended through two Stanford timeouts, putting Long Beach State up 12-6. The Cardinal never got back into it, and appeared rattled by a vocal 49ers student section, as they put eight serves into the net in the set.
Satterfield finished with a team-high 12 kills, as the 49ers’ opposite hitter proved more than capable of putting it down when the Cardinal cheated over to Taylor Crabb’s side. Because of an ankle injury, Satterfield (who was the team’s starting right side hitter in the Fall) was slow in working his way back to the starting job this season, though he certainly looked to have earned it on Saturday, with 12 kills on .308 hitting, 2 blocks, 3 digs and an ace.
“The great thing about coach Knipe is that he gives everyone a chance,” said Satterfield. “As long as you work hard in practice.”
Crabb had a solid match, with 11 kills and 9 digs. He said the fact that the 49ers only played one match this week made things a lot easier on the team. “We were more prepared physically after getting two days off,” he said. “And our scouting reports had down every tendency.”
Knipe, too, acknowledged his coaching staff was able to be a little more detailed. “We really wanted to highlight three areas, and I’d love to say what they are, but I’m going to wait until after the playoffs,” he said with a smile.
Stanford mounted a serious challenge in the third set, coming back from down 21-17 to tie it at 23 and actually take set point at 24-23. They had four tries at winning the frame, but squandered two of them on service errors, which left the door open for Long Beach to finish them off, which they did on a kill from Satterfield, Dalton Ammerman’s 8th kill, and a hitting error by Stanford (they were led by Steve Irvin, 17 kills, and Brian Cook, 14 kills).
Knipe’s team will now advance to face UC Irvine next Thursday in the MPSF semifinals, in Provo (BYU is the top seed and thus the host of the final four and championship). Should BYU advance to the final, it is almost certain that their opponent, either the 49ers or the Anteaters, would also get a berth into the NCAAs, so the 49ers will be playing not just for a berth in the MPSF finals, but potentially the NCAA Final Four as well.
Earlier in the season, that might have seemed like too big a stage for these 49ers—but if Saturday night was any indication, they’re ready for a starring role.