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No. 4 Long Beach State Set to Open 2014 Season at UCSB Asics Invitational
The 49ers will kick off the regular season at the UCSB Asics Invitational this weekend.

The 49ers will kick off the regular season at the UCSB Asics Invitational this weekend.

Jan. 1, 2014

No. 4 Long Beach State at
UCSB Asics Invitational
Friday-Saturday, Jan. 3-4
Time: All Day
Location: Santa Barbara, Calif.

Long Beach State Match Notes Get Acrobat Reader

The fourth-ranked Long Beach State men's volleyball team will kick off the 2014 season at the UCSB Asics Invitational, Jan. 3-4. The 49ers open the tournament with round-robin pool play starting at 10 a.m. on Friday.

There are 10 teams in the 2014 UCSB Asics Invitational, including eight from the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.

This year, the competition is divided into two five-team pools. All pool play matches will be best-of-three set exhibitions and will not count towards the teams' overall records. Long Beach State, which is in Pool B, is set to face UC San Diego, Cal State Northridge, IPFW and UCLA on Friday. Pool A is comprised of Cal Baptist, Harvard, Pacific, Stanford and host UC Santa Barbara.

All teams will also play one best-of-five match, which will count towards overall records, on Saturday to determine tournament placings.

Six of the 10 teams in the UCSB Asics Invitational are featured among the top-15 in the AVCA Division I-II Men's Preseason Poll. Long Beach State, which received one first-place vote, starts the season at No. 4. The 49ers will face No. 2 UCLA and No. 14 Cal State Northridge in pool play, and could possibly square off against No. 5 Stanford, No. 8 UC Santa Barbara or No. 15 Cal Baptist on Saturday.

Eleventh-year head coach Alan Knipe is seven wins away from reaching the 200-victory milestone. In his 10 years at the helm, Knipe has compiled a 193-111 overall record. In 2013, he directed the 49ers to their best season in five years as they went 24-8 and advanced to the MPSF Tournament finals. During his tenure, Knipe has led LBSU to nine MPSF Tournament appearances, two NCAA Tournament bids and five 20-plus win seasons.

UC San Diego was receiving votes in the AVCA Preseason Poll. The Tritons were 7-22 overall last year. Outside hitter Nick Iorfino is their top returning attacker as he averaged 2.37 kills per set in 2013. UCSD also welcomes back middle blocker Fred Stahl (1.04 blocks/set) and setters Mike Brunsting and Garrett Dempsey.

No. 14 Cal State Northridge returns 10 letterwinners from its 2013 squad that finished with an 11-15 overall record last year. The Matadors welcome back setter Travis Magorien (9.17 assists/set) and outside hitter Kyle Stevenson (1.45 kills/set).

IPFW is coming off a 13-13 season and will be led by All-MIVA selection Eddie Rivera in 2014. Rivera racked up 326 kills (3.23/set), 179 digs (1.77/set) and 23 aces last year.

No. 2 UCLA brings back nine letterwinners and four starters from last year's 21-11 team that advanced to the MPSF Tournament semifinals. Leading the way for the Bruins will be outside hitter Gonzalo Quiroga and opposite Spencer Rowe, who both received All-America honors in 2013.

This marks the 12th consecutive year that Long Beach State will kick off the new season at UCSB's annual tournament. The 49ers have participated in the event since 2003, winning the title twice (2006, 2008).

Long Beach State will be looking for its seventh-straight season-opening win this weekend. Since the rally scoring era began in 2001, the 49ers are 11-2 in season openers.

LBSU will play nine of its first 11 conference matches on the road. The 49ers open their MPSF slate at Cal Baptist and BYU before heading to Hawai'i for a pair of matches. They then return home to host USC and Pepperdine before embarking on another four-match road swing.

Three 49ers were named to the Off the Block/Springbak, Inc. Preseason All-America Team. Senior Taylor Crabb was a first-team selection, while senior Connor Olbright and sophomore Taylor Gregory both received second-team recognition.

Long Beach State was picked to finish in a tie for first in the 2014 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Men's Volleyball Coaches' Preseason Poll the conference office announced on Dec. 12. The 49ers and BYU both received three first-place votes and 126 total points to share the top spot. They were followed by two-time defending national champion UC Irvine, which came in third with 125 points despite collecting six first-place nods. UCLA claimed the final first-place vote and took fourth with 117 points.

Senior outside hitter Taylor Crabb will once again spearhead the 49ers as they look to make a run for the coveted national championship. Crabb enters his final season ranked 17th in school history with 1,101 career kills. Last year, he was tops in the nation with 502 kills and ranked third in the country with 4.18 kills per set. The Honolulu, Hawaii, native also tied for the team lead with 23 aces and was third on the squad with 1.74 digs per set. Crabb was named the 2013 AVCA National Player of the Year and was a first-team All-American. In addition, Crabb is a three-time All-MPSF selection.

Connor Olbright (Orange, Calif.) enters his senior season ranked sixth among the LBSU all-time greats with 2,911 career assists. He finished the 2013 campaign ranked fourth in the nation with 10.86 assists per set, while also registering a team-best 216 digs and nine double-doubles. Olbright earned second-team AVCA and Volleyball Magazine All-America honors and was a second-team All-MPSF selection last year. In addition, he was named to the MPSF and the UCSB Asics All-Tournament Team.

Long Beach State begins its MPSF slate on the road next week as it heads to No. 15 Cal Baptist (Jan. 9) and No. 2 BYU (Jan. 11).