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Long Beach State Begins MPSF Tournament at No. 2 Pepperdine

The 49ers will start their quest for the MPSF Tournament title with a quarterfinal match at No. 2 Pepperdine on Saturday.
(Photo by John Fajardo)

April 16, 2014

No. 7 Long Beach State (18-9, 15-9 MPSF) at
No. 2 Pepperdine (18-6, 18-6 MPSF)
Saturday, April 19
Time: 7 p.m. (PDT)
Location: Malibu, Calif.
Arena: Firestone Fieldhouse
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The seventh-ranked Long Beach State men's volleyball team begins its quest for the MPSF Tournament title and the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Championships with a quarterfinal match at No. 2 Pepperdine on Saturday, April 19. The 49ers and Waves will square off at Firestone Fieldhouse with first serve set for 7 p.m.

The top-eight teams advanced to the MPSF Tournament, with the top-four seeds hosting a quarterfinal match at campus sites. LBSU finished in a tie for fifth with UCLA and UC Irvine, but lost out on the tiebreakers to earn the No. 7 seed. The 49ers will face second-seeded Pepperdine, which claimed a share of the regular-season title.

The other quarterfinal match-ups are: No. 8 USC at No. 1 BYU, No. 5 UCLA at No. 4 UC Santa Barbara and No. 6 UC Irvine at No. 3 Stanford. The semifinals and finals will be held at the highest remaining seed, April 24-26.

This is Long Beach State's fourth-straight MPSF Tournament berth and 19th overall. Last year, the 49ers advanced to the finals where they dropped a tough match at top-seeded BYU. The Beach is 14-18 in 18 MPSF Tournament appearances. It has made five trips to the championship match, but is looking for its first-ever MPSF Tournament title.

Long Beach State remained at No. 7 in this week's AVCA poll released on April 14. Loyola-Chicago earned the No. 1 ranking for the 10th-straight week, while Pepperdine was second and Stanford was third. The 49ers have been ranked as high as No. 1, claiming the top spot after winning the UCSB Asics Invitational to open the season. It was their first time at No. 1 in the AVCA poll since the 2006 campaign.

Senior outside hitter Taylor Crabb (Honolulu, Hawaii) was named the Sports Imports/AVCA Division I-II Men's National Player of the Week the American Volleyball Coaches Association announced on Tuesday, April 15.

Crabb earned his first career AVCA weekly honor after leading Long Beach State to a pair of sweeps over No. 15 Cal State Northridge, which had just come off upset wins over UCLA and UC Santa Barbara. With the two victories over the Matadors, the 49ers secured their fourth-straight MPSF Tournament berth. Crabb, the 2013 AVCA National Player of the Year, started the week with a match-high 17 kills in just three sets on Senior Night last Thursday in the Walter Pyramid. The six-foot outside hitter registered a .469 attack percentage, while adding six digs and two aces. Two days later, Crabb once again led all players with 13 kills at CSUN. He committed only one error on 16 swings for a .750 clip. Crabb also finished with four digs, four blocks and two aces.

No. 2 Pepperdine (18-6, 18-6 MPSF) closed out its conference slate on a four-match win streak to claim a share of the MPSF regular-season title. Josh Taylor leads the Waves with 4.12 kills per set, while Parker Kalmbach is also averaging 3.49 kills per set. Matt West has directed the offense to .300 hitting with 11.10 assists per set, and has also chipped in a team-best 2.13 digs per set.

Long Beach State trails in its all-time series with Pepperdine, 38-40. The 49ers are 1-4 against the Waves in MPSF Tournament matches and are looking for their first playoff win vs. Pepperdine since 2001.

Seniors Taylor Crabb and Connor Olbright continue to move up the 49er career charts. Crabb is seventh on the all-time list with 1,580 career kills. This year, he passed a pair of Olympians in Tom Hoff and Paul Lotman. Crabb is also fourth in total attempts (3,604) and tied for fourth in digs (798), while Olbright is No. 4 in assists (4,059).

Five 49ers rank among the top-25 in all of NCAA Division I-II in six different statistical categories. Taylor Crabb leads the nation in kills (4.79/set), and also ranks second in points (5.34/set), 22nd in hitting percentage (.375) and 25th in digs (2.21/set). Connor Olbright is second in the country with 11.48 assists per set, while Andrew Sato is fourth with 2.74 digs per set. In addition, Jeff Ornee (1.34/set) and Taylor Gregory (1.07/set) rank fifth and 17th, respectively, in blocks per set.

In his senior season, reigning AVCA National Player of the Year Taylor Crabb (Honolulu, Hawaii) has continued to prove that he is among the country's elite. The six-foot outside hitter leads the nation in kills per set (4.79) and ranks second in points per set (5.34). He has reached double figures in kills in every match, with nine of those coming by way of 20-plus kill performances. Crabb also has a team-leading 10 double-doubles, with the most recent coming against UCLA (April 5) where he had 28 kills and 10 digs.

Crabb's best showing to date came at then No. 2 UCLA on Feb. 12, where he matched his career high with 29 kills, while committing just one error on 56 attempts. He added a career-best 16 digs to go along with five blocks against the Bruins. Crabb also had 29 kills and 12 digs at No. 7 Stanford on Jan. 31. In the second meeting with the Cardinal, he finished with 22 kills and 11 digs. In addition, he recorded a double-double vs. UCSB (18 kills, 12 digs), at UC Irvine (12 kills, 11 digs), vs. Ohio State (23 kills, 11 digs), vs. BYU (21 kills, 13 digs), vs. Pepperdine (24 kills, 13 digs) and at Hawai'i on Jan. 17 (22 kills, 10 digs). On the season, Crabb is averaging 4.79 kills and 2.21 digs per set, and has registered a .375 hitting percentage. He has been named the MPSF/Molten Player of the Week twice and was tabbed the Sports Imports/AVCA National Player of the Week on April 15.

Senior All-American setter Connor Olbright (Orange, Calif.) recorded a double-double in four-straight outings from March 27-April 5. During that stretch, he averaged 10.25 assists and 2.81 digs per set. On the year, he is second on the team with eight double-doubles. Olbright has also established career highs in assists (63 vs. Ohio State) and digs (17 at Stanford) this season.

Connor Olbright ranks second in the nation with 11.48 assists per set. He has registered at least 50 assists seven times, including a career-high 63 in a win over Ohio State. Olbright also had 61 helpers vs. BYU, 56 vs. Pepperdine, 55 vs. UCLA and Harvard, and 52 at both UCLA and Stanford. Olbright directed The Beach to a rally scoring era school record .582 hitting percentage at UC San Diego (March 27).

With just nine kills in 31 sets played over the first 24 matches, nobody expected to see Cody Martin (Gilbert, Ariz.) get much more playing time than the usual reserve action. But, the sophomore transfer from Orange Coast College quickly made a name for himself with a breakout performance against UCLA as he tallied a career-high 18 kills, while committing just one error on 27 attempts for a .630 clip. He also had six digs, three blocks and an ace vs. the Bruins. That outing earned him his first career start against Cal State Northridge, and Martin once again stepped up on the big stage with 14 kills on .444 hitting. He then registered his third-straight double-figure kill match with 10 at CSUN.

Senior Jeff Ornee has started every contest at middle blocker after playing most of the 2013 season at opposite. The Cypress, Calif., native has worked his way back into his original position nicely as he is tops on the squad and ranks fifth in the nation with 1.34 blocks per set. Ornee, who has led the 49ers in blocking 17 times this year, has reached double digits twice with a career-high 13 stuffs against top-ranked Pepperdine on Jan. 24. He also had 11 blocks to go along with 10 kills for his first career double-double vs. UC Santa Barbara (April 3). Ornee was one kill off his season high of 11, which he established against Ohio State.

Sophomore Andrew Sato comes from a decorated volleyball family and he has kept the tradition alive as he was named to the MPSF All-Freshman Team in 2013. This year, he has registered 16 double-digit dig matches, including a career-high 19 vs. then No. 1 Pepperdine. The Calabasas, Calif., native is tops on the squad and fourth in the nation with 2.74 digs per set. Sato's average ranks second in LBSU single-season history, while his 274 total digs ranks fourth.

The MPSF Tournament continues next week with the semifinals (April 24) and finals (April 26), which will be held at the campus site of the highest remaining seed.



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