Long Beach State prematch VolleyFour news conference

Photo courtesy of Long Beach State athletics

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

The No. 1 seed Long Beach State will play the two-time defending NCAA championship Ohio State in the VolleyFour on Thursday.

Long Beach State coach Alan Knipe

Opening statement
“Like every team here, we’re excited to be here. This is the culmination of a lot of work over the course of the entire season so I know our guys are excited. We know there are some really good teams in this tournament and [the tournament] gets deeper and the quality of play gets better each and every year, as proven by the play-in game last night [between UC Irvine and Ohio State]. We’re excited to get after it. Thanks for everything
that the NCAA and our hosts here at UCLA have done to make the championships special for the student-athletes.”

On the challenges presented by the team’s 12-day layoff between matches
“It’s part of the deal. If you play the season out and get rewarded with the time off, it’s what you want. We prepped for this over the course of the year. We had a bye in the conference tournament as well. It’s not like we haven’t been playing volleyball. We know we’re facing a team that played on Tuesday, and it comes down to ‘which do you prefer?’ You get a chance to get your legs under you and play on the court a little bit and then it turns into a five-gamer, or you get a break and get to work on some things. We scheduled some things last week to make it more similar to a normal week. We had a really good black-and-gold scrimmage on Friday night with fans, refs, the whole deal, and we did a lot similar things as we would for a normal match: scouting reports, preparation and warm-ups. So it feels for us like we played on Friday night and we have the week to
prepare for a two-match week.”

On potentially facing programs that have knocked them out of prior NCAA Tournaments
“Well that’s getting ahead of ourselves. We’re playing Ohio State tomorrow night. We didn’t play them, we played BYU in the [2017 NCAA Semifinal]. As far as who, what, where, I don’t think a coach here really cares what the order is, the only way to accomplish the goals we have for ourselves is to be here and play the match here we have tomorrow night against a great team that is well-coached and has had success in this tournament. We’re fired up and ready to play.”

On whether he’d like to see more teams in the NCAA Tournament field
“Absolutely I’d like to see more. For some of the teams we played over the course of the season to not have a chance to compete for the championship is difficult. I’ve been on both sides of that. There are a handful of teams out there that probably feel like that they could get in this tournament and maybe win it. We want expansion. I think that the best thing that happened with the Big West [Conference] adding men’s volleyball was that it did spur some growth. Maybe the MPSF can do some with the Pac-12 or the Big-10. I don’t know where it goes, but our sport is growing. I go to the [Junior Olympics] boy’s tournament every year, and it’s swelling at huge numbers. The quality is there to add teams, and the tournament would not be watered down if we were able to expand. Do we go as big as the women’s tournament, probably not, but we could get sizably bigger and the tournament would not lose any of its luster. I’m all about growth, and I love the way we’re going and what’s happened the last couple of years from the expansion to six, to the play-in games, and what we’ve been able to do has been great for the student-athletes.”

On opponent Ohio State’s Tuesday night contest vs. UC Irvine
“I think that played out how a lot of people thought it would. Those are two very good teams, and two very different teams. It was a slugfest. It didn’t surprise me. It wouldn’t have been surprised me whichever team won. I think there was the opportunity for Ohio State’s serve to get going, and at times it really did and it paid out dividends in the end, but there were a lot of matchup problems that Irvine was able to pose to Ohio State with size in the middle. More importantly, what a great example of the level of men’s volleyball right now if that’s a play-in game.”

Long Beach State outside attacker TJ DeFalco

On what it will take to reach the NCAA Championship match
“I think we’ve used the last few years as a pretty good reference point. The way we practice and what our mindset should be for practices. That’s what we’ve kind of made our mantra for the whole year: just grind, one match at a time and one point at a time. We’ve had a lot of experience getting to the final four, but we’re trying to have the best preparation possible to put ourselves in the best situation for these matches.”

On being perceived as the favorites in the tournament
“In my opinion, being the favorite means nothing to us. We were favored last year, and we weren’t prepared the way we are now. So it comes down to how we do and the way we prepare.”

Long Beach State setter Josh Tuaniga

On running the team’s offense
“We put a lot of work in, both during the fall and during the [regular] season, so we feel pretty confident that all the work that we’ve put on has gone to good use. That’s where the confidence comes from, all the work we’ve put in.”

Long Beach State outside attacker Bjarne Huus

On the vibe of the team
“It’s a great vibe. We know we can rely on each other to do our jobs. The biggest thing is that we want to believe in ourselves. Both setters in the gym, Josh and Carlos [Rivera] are running a balanced offense so everyone gets the chances to prove themselves in practice so coming out in the matches becomes much easier.”