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No. 7 LBSU Men's Volleyball Opens 2013 Season At UCSB Invitational This Weekend

The 49ers start the 2013 season this weekend as they head to Santa Barbara for the annual UCSB/asics Invitational.

Jan. 2, 2013

Long Beach State (0-0) vs.
Loyola-Chicago (0-0)
Friday, Jan. 4
Time: 10 a.m. (PST)
Location: The Thunderdome

Long Beach State (0-0) vs.
Cal Baptist (0-0) or UC Irvine (0-0)
Friday, Jan. 4
Time: 7:30 p.m. (PST)
Location: The Thunderdome

Long Beach State (0-0) vs.
Saturday, Jan. 5
Time: TBA
Location: Robertson Gymnasium

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The seventh-ranked Long Beach State men's volleyball team is set to begin the 2013 campaign at the annual UCSB/asics Invitational, Jan. 4-5.

The 49ers will take on No. 10 Loyola-Chicago in their tournament and season opener at 10 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 4, before returning to the court for a 7:30 p.m. showdown against either top-ranked UC Irvine or No. 15 Cal Baptist. LBSU then closes out the weekend with a single match on Saturday (Jan. 5).

This is the ninth-straight year that Long Beach State will kick off the new season at the UCSB tournament. The 49ers have participated in the annual event since 2003, winning the title twice (2006, 2008).

Seven of the eight teams in the UCSB/asics Invitational are among the top-15 in the AVCA Division I-II Men's Preseason Poll released on Dec. 28. Long Beach State starts the season at No. 7, while its first opponent of the year, Loyola-Chicago, is ranked 10th. Defending national champion UC Irvine earned the top spot, while Lewis (No. 5), UCLA (No. 6), UC Santa Barbara (No. 13) and Cal Baptist (No. 15) are also ranked.

Tenth-year head coach Alan Knipe returns to the helm of the 49er program after taking a leave of absence to coach the U.S. Men's National Team. Knipe, who amassed a 169-103 overall record in his nine years at LBSU, also saw much success with Team USA, guiding them to the quarterfinals of the 2012 Olympic Games in London. The Americans advanced to the knockout round after finishing first in Pool B, which also featured Brazil and Russia, who were ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the world, respectively.

No. 10 Loyola-Chicago brings back 13 letterwinners from a 2012 squad that went 19-12 overall and advanced to the semifinals of the MIVA Tournament. Opposite Joseph Smalzer is the Ramblers' top returner after averaging 3.44 kills, 1.39 digs, 0.53 blocks and 0.49 service aces per set.

Top-ranked UC Irvine welcomes back 12 letterwinners and four starters from its 2012 squad that won both the NCAA Championship and the MPSF Tournament. The Anteaters return two of their top three kill leaders from last year, including first-team AVCA All-American Kevin Tillie, who averaged 3.80 kills, 1.71 digs and 0.62 blocks per set in 2012.

No. 15 Cal Baptist, which is in its first year as a member of the MPSF, finished the 2012 campaign with a 12-16 overall record. The Lancers return eight letterwinners, including Aaron McCalmont, who led the squad with 3.26 kills per set, and Kristopher Johnson, who registered 2.80 kills and a team-best 0.91 blocks per set.

Long Beach State leads in its short all-time series with Loyola-Chicago, 2-0. The 49ers and Ramblers met in the first round of the 2012 UCSB/asics Invitational. LBSU picked up the 25-21, 32-30, 25-21 victory, and also defeated Loyola, 3-1, at home in 2010.

The 49ers lead in their series with Cal Baptist, 9-1. Long Beach State has claimed the last two meetings, including a 3-0 victory in Long Beach on Jan. 24, 2012.

LBSU leads in its all-time series with UC Irvine, 38-18, but has lost five in a row. The 49ers fell to the Anteaters in five sets at the UCSB tournament last year, and were also swept in both MPSF regular season meetings. Long Beach State's last win over UCI came on Jan. 7, 2011, in Santa Barbara.

Long Beach State is looking for its sixth-straight season-opening victory when it takes on Loyola-Chicago Friday morning. Since the rally scoring era began in 2001, the 49ers are 11-1 in season openers with their only loss coming against Cal State Northridge at the UCSB tournament in 2007.

Long Beach State went 2-1 to finish third overall at the 2012 UCSB/asics Invitational. LBSU started the tournament with a 3-0 win over Loyola-Chicago before suffering a 3-2 loss to eventual champion UC Irvine.

LBSU rebounded on the second day as it came back from a 2-0 deficit to top Ohio State, 3-2, in the third-place match. Taylor Crabb finished with 17 kills and six digs, while Trevor Crabb tallied 10 kills and five digs. Connor Olbright directed the offense to a .339 attack percentage with 50 assists.

Junior Taylor Crabb (Honolulu, Hawaii) was named a preseason All-American by Off the Block, a website focused solely on collegiate men's volleyball. The 6-0 outside hitter is coming off a 2012 campaign in which he earned second-team All-MPSF and third-team Volleyball Magazine All-America honors after finishing with a team-best 303 kills (2.75/set) and 210 digs (1.91).

Long Beach State was picked to finish sixth in the MPSF Men's Volleyball Preseason Coaches' Poll. The 49ers received 85 points to come in just ahead of reigning MPSF regular season champion and NCAA finalist USC (83 points). Defending national champion UC Irvine was tabbed as this year's favorite with 11 first-place votes and 143 total points. BYU claimed the remaining two first-place nods to place second with 134 points. Pepperdine (113 points), Stanford (110) and UCLA (94) were also predicted to place ahead of LBSU.

Long Beach State starts its MPSF slate next week when it heads back to UC Santa Barbara on Wednesday, Jan. 9, for a 7 p.m. showdown with the Gauchos.



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