Long Beach State prematch NCAA Tournament finals news conference

Photo courtesy of Long Beach State athletics

Check out what Long Beach State coach Alan Knipe and his players said in their news conference on Friday.

Long Beach State will play the UCLA in the NCAA Tournament finals on Saturday at Pauley Pavilion.

Long Beach State coach Alan Knipe

Opening statement
“It’s… down to two teams. This is what you train all year for and we’ve talked about our process to getting to this point since the very first days of the fall. I like what we got out of the match last night. It was a great physical match and we had to flex a lot of different strengths of our team to be able to come out with that win. So I think that serves us well moving forward. Also coming off the bye, which a lot of people have asked me questions about. I thought our guys did a great job. We had talked about that all season, how we were going to prep for the bye. And I thought we came out playing physical, playing aggressive and playing sharp after the bye. So that’s great for our development. We get a chance to get back to the hotel and finish up some scouting report stuff and get some rest and get the chance to come in and compete for a national championship, which is exactly what the goal was from the first day. Here we go.”

On playing for alma mater’s first NCAA title since 1991
“It means everything. It’s the reason I love coaching at Long Beach State, it’s the reason why I’ve said many times it’s the greatest job in collegiate volleyball. I get to coach at the place I played and have spent a big bulk of my life at. It’s a good community, it’s a family, it’s amazing people and when you play there, then your connection to your alumni base is special, too, because most schools you either play with or you coached. It’s not something that you’re trying to make a connection, you’re trying to feel the bond of an alumni base. It’s true, it’s pure, it’s the Long Beach nation at its finest. It’s a very special thing to have a chance to lead this program.”

On if coaching at Long Beach State was always in the back of his mind coming up
“When I got into coaching, I didn’t plan on getting into coaching, so I didn’t really have a long drawn-out plan. But when I started to coach and then the opportunity came to be the assistant coach with Ray Ratelle at Long Beach State, yeah, once I started to feel like I wanted to do this as a career, the ultimate job for me from the very beginning would be have a chance to coach as the head coach at Long Beach State. Like I said earlier, it’s pure, it’s easy and your passionate about it. Of course you want to be there.”

On UCLA’s changing lineups since the last time they played in February
“Now we’re going to see three different lineups with UCLA. So yeah, I changed a little preparation, but for us it’s important that we’re also going to lean on the things we do well, and there’s no doubt that there’s going to be game-planning on the things we think we need to be good at to execute against them and we’d like to slow down, and that changes if the lineup changes, and the lineup has changed three times. But that doesn’t change the things that we core believe that we want to do in the game and how we want to play and what we strive to do all the time, and that’s dominate the things that we can control. We’re going to focus on those, we’ll have a few keys in the match, and then it will really come down to execution.”

Long Beach State opposite Kyle Ensing

On Josh Tuaniga
“I think we just have to go back to what we’ve been doing throughout the whole season. Josh has been setting perfect balls to us the whole season and it shows in how we’ve been doing this season. That’s what we’ve got to do.”

Long Beach State libero Jordan Molina

On second and third touches team has had throughout tournament
“What we talk about in our gym, at least, is doing our job and executing, so it’s not really something surprising when a play like that happens. We practice it almost every day and at the end of the day it really is just work and that’s something that we pride ourselves on, trying to put in the work and effort so those second-effort plays, it’s nothing new to us.”

Long Beach State outside attacker TJ DeFalco

On the team’s resiliency
“We’ve learned a lot from the negatives that have happened the last couple of years (in the NCAA Tournament). The past couple of years, we were in for a fight, and the other teams fought back just as much, and we weren’t able to keep it going and sustain that energy and sustain the preparation that we had. I think we refer to a lot of this year’s tough matches that we’ve had. We’ve traveled to a lot of different places and had all the different factors affecting us, but yet we still able to keep going and push through. We expected Ohio State to come out and be a slugfest, but we just had to keep going and keep weathering the storm and keep hoping that we would make the plays.”

On the vibe in the locker room after beating Ohio State
“I think the vibe in the locker room is very happy, very uplifted. We all understand that there’s one more match, and we still have work to do. Yes, we’re going to get timed out in a sense in that there’s no more to play, you’re done, but we can get better as best as we can throughout the next serve and pass and practice today and tomorrow. We can still get better. We are always going to be reaching to get better and take the opportunities that we have to play this game. We’re excited, but we all understand that we have some work to do.”

On the team’s journey this season
“The record shows that it’s been a good season, but we’ve had very many ups and downs that not many people see. We’ve had some internal things, such as guys in practice trying to adapt to the system. There are so many different things that people don’t see. We’ve been through ups and downs, but all they really see are the stats and numbers, and they see that it’s been a pretty good season, but really it’s been up and down. We’ve had to adapt to plenty of different things and different adversities this season, but the vibe has always been very good with our team, a very positive mindset. We’ve all been able to grow and get through things and have no fear of conflict. The season itself to you guys (the media) has been a little different for us. We’ve grown exponentially.”