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No. 9 Long Beach State heads to No. 4 UC Irvine, UC San Diego this weekend

The 49ers will head to No. 4 UC Irvine and UC San Diego for a pair of MPSF matches this weekend.

Feb. 22, 2012

No. 9 Long Beach State (7-6, 3-5 MPSF) at
No. 4 UC Irvine (10-3, 6-3 MPSF)
Friday, Feb. 24
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Bren Events Center
Follow the 49ers: Live Stats

No. 9 Long Beach State (7-6, 3-5 MPSF) at
UC San Diego (3-11, 1-8 MPSF)
Saturday, Feb. 25
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: RIMAC Arena
Follow the 49ers: Watch | Live Stats

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LONG BEACH - The ninth-ranked Long Beach State men's volleyball team travels south this weekend for back-to-back Mountain Pacific Sports Federation matches at No. 4 UC Irvine and unranked UC San Diego.

The 49ers are set to face the Anteaters at 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 24, before making their way to La Jolla on Saturday (Feb. 25) for a 7 p.m. showdown with the Tritons.

Long Beach State moved up one spot to No. 9 in the AVCA Division I-II Poll released Feb. 20. Stanford topped the list with 258 points and was followed by UCLA (256), BYU (227) and UC Irvine (225).

Fourth-ranked UC Irvine (10-3, 6-3 MPSF) saw its five-match win streak snapped last Friday when it was swept by then No. 4 Stanford, but it bounced back the next day with a 3-0 win over then No. 12 Pacific. A trio of Anteaters are averaging over three kills per set, including three-time All-American Carson Clark (3.64), Jeremy Dejno (3.32) and Kevin Tillie (3.04). Daniel Stork has guided the offense to .351 hitting with 11.73 assists per set.

LBSU leads in its all-time series with UC Irvine, 38-16, but the Anteaters have won three in a row. The two teams met earlier this year at the UCSB/asics Invitational, with UCI prevailing, 23-25, 21-25, 25-21, 25-16, 15-13. The Anteaters went on to win the tournament. UC Irvine also swept the season series in 2011, defeating the 49ers, 3-1, in Irvine (Feb. 16) and in Long Beach (April 6).

UC San Diego (3-11, 1-8 MPSF) has lost four in a row as its last win came at Hope International on Feb. 3. The Tritons' lone conference victory was on Jan. 6 when they swept then No. 11 Hawaii in Honolulu. Vaun Lennon (2.92 kill/set) and Carl Eberts (2.91 kill/set) lead the UCSD attack, while Chase Frishman has anchored the back row with 1.68 digs/set.

Long Beach State leads in its all-time series with UC San Diego, 53-4, and has prevailed in the last eight meetings. The 49ers haven't lost to the Tritons since Feb. 24, 2007, when they dropped a five-set decision in La Jolla.

Freshman John La Rusch (Long Beach, Calif./Poly HS) came up big for the 49ers last Tuesday with a career-high 21 kills in a 3-2 upset win against No. 1 UCLA. La Rusch, who was making just his second start of his young career, was LBSU's go-to hitter all match and he had three consecutive kills late in the decisive fifth set to give Long Beach State a 13-7 advantage. La Rusch's performance earned him Sports Imports/AVCA Division I-II National Player of the Week honors. His first career start came at Pepperdine (Jan. 14) where he totaled 12 kills and hit .409 in a four-set loss.

Junior middle blocker Colten Echave had a breakout performance in his first career start last Friday. The Ladera Ranch, Calif., native led the 49ers to a 3-1 victory over then No. 15 UC Santa Barbara with a career-high 17 kills and five blocks. Echave committed just one hitting error on 26 swings for a .654 percentage.

Sophomore Taylor Crabb has reached double-figure kills in nine of the 49ers' 13 matches. He has also registered a team-best four double-doubles, including three in the last four matches. Crabb had 16 kills and 11 digs vs. UCLA, 13 kills and 11 digs vs. Stanford, and 14 kills and 11 digs vs. Pacific. Earlier in the season, Crabb totaled 15 kills and a career-high 14 digs at Pepperdine (Jan. 14). The Honolulu, Hawaii, native also had a season-best 17 kills against Ohio State on Jan. 7. Crabb added 12 kills at Cal State Northridge, 11 vs. Loyola-Chicago, and 10 vs. the Matadors and at USC. Crabb has been stellar in MPSF play, averaging a team-best 3.00 kills and 2.21 digs per set in conference matches.

Sophomore Connor Olbright took over the starting setter role midway through last season and he hasn't missed a beat in 2012. The Orange, Calif., native has directed Long Beach State to a .304 hitting percentage with 10.31 assists per set. He has finished with at least 50 helpers five times, including a season-high 54 assists vs. No. 15 UC Santa Barbara. Olbright also had a career-best six kills against No. 4 Stanford.

Long Beach State's middle blockers have provided a steady presence as sophomore Jeff Ornee and senior Ryan Meehan have combined for 145 kills and 91 blocks, while hitting .451.

Ornee, who stepped into a starting role this year, has averaged 1.64 kills and 1.00 blocks per set. The Cypress, Calif., native had a career-high 14 kills, while committing no errors on 18 attempts against Loyola-Chicago (Jan. 6), and also reached double figures with 11 kills vs. Stanford and 10 vs. UC Santa Barbara. Ornee added a career-best seven blocks against the Gauchos.

Meehan (Dana Point, Calif.), a two-year starter, is averaging 1.47 kills and 0.95 blocks per set. He totaled a season-high nine kills vs. both Stanford and Pacific. Against the Cardinal, he had just one error on 11 attempts for a .727 hitting percentage.

Kyle McElderry (La Palma, Calif.), who appeared in 10 matches in his first three years at Long Beach State, made the transition from outside hitter to libero prior to his senior campaign. The 6-foot-5 McElderry has shined in his new role, averaging a team-best 1.88 digs per set. He had a career-high 14 digs in a five-set loss at Cal State Northridge on Jan. 20, and also reached double figures with 12 digs vs. No. 15 UC Santa Barbara, 10 digs vs. No. 4 Stanford and 10 digs vs. No. 1 UCLA. McElderry owns a 92.5 serve receive percentage with just 20 errors on 265 attempts.

Just two weeks after hosting the Bruins and the Gauchos, Long Beach State will pay a visit to both schools as it heads to UCLA on Wednesday, Feb. 29, and UC Santa Barbara on Friday, March 2. First serve for both matches is 7 p.m.



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