Projected preseason top 10 national rankings: No. 7 Long Beach State

Long Beach State is projected by Off the Block to be No. 7 in the preseason national rankings.

Off the Block throughout December will reveal its projected men’s volleyball preseason top 10 national rankings and will profile a top-10 team each day. The Off the Block projected preseason rankings were created independently of the AVCA Coaches Poll and the Volleyball Magazine Top 10 Media Poll.

The college men’s volleyball season begins on Jan. 3 and concludes with the Final Four in May.


Check out what to know about Long Beach State as it enters the 2012 season.

2012 SEASON PROSPECTUS
Coach Andy Read has four starters from last year returning for the upcoming season, including Off the Block Preseason All-American outside attacker Taylor Crabb. As a freshman last season, Crabb was second on the team in kills. He also helped lead the United States to a fourth-place finish at the World Championship this summer. In addition, outside attacker Jim Baughman returns for his senior season after having a team-high 3.27 kills per game average last year. Long Beach State was projected to finish the conference regular season in sixth place in the MPSF Preseason Coaches Poll.

2011 SEASON RECAP
The 49ers ended the regular season in sixth place in the MPSF and upset then-No. 3 Stanford in the MPSF Tournament quarterfinals before being eliminated in the conference tournament semifinals. Long Beach State opened MPSF play winning five of its first six matches and had a season-best four match winning streak. However, the 49ers went 4-5 during March to fall out of the top four of the MPSF standings. Long Beach State in non-conference play last season upset Penn State and went 1-2 at the UC Santa Barbara Invitational.

EARLY-SEASON MATCH TO WATCH
Long Beach State will open its season in non-conference play at the UC Santa Barbara Invitational with a match against Loyola. Loyola ended last season ranked in the top 15 coaches poll and had two victories against West Coast schools — BYU and Cal State Northridge. This is the 10th consecutive season that the 49ers will compete at the UC Santa Barbara Invitational. For more on Long Beach State’s upcoming schedule, check out the team’s complete schedule breakdown.


5 QUESTIONS WITH COACH ANDY READ
Off the Block: Coach, your team competed in several preseason tournaments this fall. How do you feel the preseason went for your team?

Andy Read: I really like our guys. They are extremely athletic and starting to play well. We’ve got players like Jim Baughman returning at opposite and another strong senior leader with Ryan Meehan. We had great freshmen last year that are now returning for their sophomore seasons, and we have nucleus for a team that is solid. This fall we had a lot of players injured and sick. We were never able to put our best lineup on floor for all the fall, but for one set. The most important thing for us is that our players know they can play, and they feel confident about what we are doing.

OTB: Long Beach State didn’t reach the confernece tournament in 2010 and then you reached the conference tournament semifinals last season. Is the goal for you this year to take that next step and reach the Final Four?

AR: Our goal is to win the whole [dang] thing. I would wonder about our guys if that was not our goal, and I think each one believes 100 percent that our goal is obtainable. We came along a lot last year. With the guys we have coming back and with the key guys returning and with a couple of new guys, we have a good level of play in the gym. … As an entire group our players feel supported and are confident. Last year we were not confident all the time and we went from being not good to really good night after night because of it.

OTB: You made the switch towards the end of last year to Connor Olbright as your starting setter. Can you talk a little bit about his development this off-season?

AR: One of the things that has really helped Connor is getting Chris Seiffert on our coaching staff. Chris played here and was an All-American here. Him coming into the gym and working with our setters have put them light years ahead of where they were last year. … Connor believes he’s the leader of the team on the floor. It’s something that he had ability to do and he’s taken all his talent and added that chemistry with his teammates. The guys want to play for him and complete with him.

OTB: Taylor Crabb played for the United States at the World Championships in August. How beneficial are these international tournament to compete in during the offseason?

AR: It’s huge that he was able to experience playing against those the types of teams. The game begins to slow down after playing in those tournaments. … We’ve seen the same thing this fall with him and Ryan Meehan. Ryan had the biggest growth playing in the World University Games this summer, and wow did that give him a boost of confidence.

OTB: You open this season playing Loyola at the UC Santa Barbara Invitational. What are you thoughts about the season-opener and the tournament?

AR: It’s a great tournament and we’re excited to play Loyola in the opener. We are going to play five matches over five days [with two exhibition matches earlier in the week] and then we go straight into conference play, and I think it’s great. I think we are young and it’s good that we are going on the road and playing a lot on the road. It’s a good way to start the season for us and the guys anxious to get it going.