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No. 1 LBSU Begins MPSF Slate With Road Matches at Cal Baptist, No. 9 BYU
The top-ranked 49ers will start MPSF play this week with a pair of road matches at Cal Baptist and No. 9 BYU.<br><i>(Photo by John Fajardo)</i>

The top-ranked 49ers will start MPSF play this week with a pair of road matches at Cal Baptist and No. 9 BYU.
(Photo by John Fajardo)

Jan. 7, 2014

No. 1 Long Beach State (1-0, 0-0 MPSF) at
Cal Baptist (0-1, 0-0 MPSF)
Thursday, Jan. 9
Time: 7 p.m. (PST)
Location: Riverside, Calif.
Arena: Van Dyne Gym
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No. 1 Long Beach State (1-0, 0-0 MPSF) at
No. 9 BYU (0-2, 0-0 MPSF)
Saturday, Jan. 11
Time: 6 p.m. (PST)
Location: Provo, Utah
Arena: Smith Fieldhouse
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Long Beach State Match Notes Get Acrobat Reader

The top-ranked Long Beach State men's volleyball team jumps right into conference play as it starts its 24-match Mountain Pacific Sports Federation slate with a pair of road contests at Cal Baptist and No. 9 BYU this week.

The 49ers will square off against the Lancers in Riverside at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 9, before heading to Provo, Utah, for a 6 p.m. (PST) showdown against the Cougars on Saturday, Jan. 11.

Long Beach State earned the top spot in the AVCA Division I-II Men's Preseason Poll after the first week of the 2014 campaign. The 49ers received 11 first-place votes and 245 total points to move up three slots to No. 1. They were followed by second-ranked Loyola-Chicago, while preseason favorite UC Irvine dropped to No. 3. Rounding out the top-five were Stanford and USC. This is LBSU's first No. 1 ranking since the third week of the 2006 season.

Eleventh-year head coach Alan Knipe is six wins away from reaching the 200-victory milestone. In his 10-plus years at the helm, Knipe has compiled a 194-111 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.

Cal Baptist (0-1) started its season with a fourth-place finish at the UCSB Asics Invitational last weekend. The Lancers went 3-1 in pool play, defeating Harvard, No. 5 Stanford and Pacific. They ended up dropping a 3-1 decision to IPFW in the third-place match on Saturday (Jan. 4). Johannes Brink led the way against the Mastodons with 19 kills and seven digs.

Cal Baptist will travel to Cal State Northridge for its MPSF opener (Jan. 8), before hosting Long Beach State.

Long Beach State leads in its all-time series with Cal Baptist, 11-1. The 49ers swept the regular-season series last year with a 3-1 win in Riverside and a five-set triumph at the Walter Pyramid.

Defending MPSF champion BYU (0-2) opened the 2014 season with a pair of losses, falling at No. 7 Loyola-Chicago, 3-0, and at No. 10 Lewis, 3-1. Taylor Sander led the Cougars on the weekend, averaging 3.71 kills and 1.00 digs per set. BYU will also host Cal State Northridge on Friday, Jan. 10.

Long Beach State trails in its all-time series with BYU, 23-27. The two teams split during the regular season last year with the 49ers outlasting the Cougars, 3-2, on the road before falling at home, 3-0. BYU also defeated LBSU in the 2013 MPSF Tournament finals. Long Beach State is 7-14 when playing in Provo.

Long Beach State earned its seventh-straight season-opening win last weekend. Since the rally scoring era began in 2001, the 49ers are 12-2 in season openers.LBSU is also 10-3 in MPSF openers since 2001.

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.

Senior outside hitter Taylor Crabb (Honolulu, Hawaii) will once again spearhead the 49ers' quest for the coveted national championship. Crabb started the season with a match-high 19 kills in a 3-1 win vs. Harvard. He also hit at a .429 clip, while adding nine digs and three blocks against the Crimson. Crabb, the reigning AVCA National Player of the Year, currently ranks 17th in school history with 1,120 career kills. He is also a two-time All-American and three-time All-MPSF selection.

Senior outside hitter Dalton Ammerman is coming off his best season in a 49er uniform as he registered 333 kills (2.85/set), 176 digs (1.50/set) and 23 aces last year. The Parker, Colo., native has picked up right where he left off as he was named the MVP of the UCSB Asics Invitational. Ammerman helped LBSU take first in Pool B with a 4-0 record and then registered 18 kills, nine digs and three blocks in the championship match vs. Harvard.

Senior Connor Olbright (Orange, Calif.) ranks sixth in program history with 2,966 career assists. He started his final season in a 49er uniform with 55 helpers in a 3-1 win over Harvard at the UCSB Asics Invitational, where he earned all-tournament honors for the second year in a row. In 2013 Olbright, who was fourth in the nation with 10.86 assists per set, garnered second-team AVCA and Volleyball Magazine All-America honors and was a second-team All-MPSF selection.

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 will head to the Aloha State next week for back-to-back MPSF matches at Hawai'i. The 49ers and Warriors will square off at 9 p.m. (PST) on Thursday, Jan. 16, and Friday, Jan. 17.