Nikolov departs Long Beach after freshman season, signs with Italian pro team

Photo courtesy of Long Beach State

The top player in college men’s volleyball last season is officially one and done.

Alex Nikolov announced Friday that he has opted to forego his remaining three years of eligibility at Long Beach State and signed a contract with Italian professional team Lube Volleyball.

Nikolov became the first freshman in college men’s volleyball history to win the National Player of the Year as he helped lead the Beach to the NCAA Tournament finals in May. The Karch Kiraly Award winner as the nation’s outside attacker finished third in the country with 4.63 kills per game average on a .386 attack percentage and was second in the nation averaging 0.58 aces per game.


“To my Long Beach State Family: Thank you for opening up every door for success in the classroom, in the community, and on the court,” Nikolov said in a statement. “You will forever have a place in my heart.”

Long Beach State in Nikolov’s only college season won the Big West regular season championship and earned the No. 1 overall seed to the NCAA Tournament. Nikolov also had 20 kills and hit .405 to help Long Beach State rally from a two-game deficit and beat UCLA in NCAA Tournament semifinals.

Along with playing for the Beach, Nikolov spent the summer playing with the Bulgarian Men’s National Team at the FIVB Volleyball Nations League. The outside attacker enters the weekend fourth at the international tournament with 139 kills.

Nikolov is one of three National Player of the Year winners to turn pro early in the last 15 years.

Opposite Matt Anderson opted to forgo his senior season after winning the award and leading Penn State to the 2008 NCAA title. In addition, outside attacker Thomas Jaeschke departed Loyola as a junior in 2015 after leading the Ramblers to back-to-back NCAA championships.

Despite the departure of Nikolov, the Beach returns for the 2023 season First-Team All-American libero Mason Briggs and Second-Team All-American opposite Clake Godbold.