Aug. 26, 2008
Long Beach, Calif. -
Complete Volleyball Release in PDF Format
Friday, Aug. 29, 2008
Long Beach State vs. San Francisco - Noon - Gametracker
Missouri St. vs. San Francisco - 5:00 PM PT - Gametracker
Long Beach State vs. Indiana - 7:00 PM PT - Gametracker
Saturday, Aug. 30, 2008
Indiana vs. Missouri St. - 11:00 AM PT - Gametracker
Indiana vs. San Francisco - 5:00 PM PT - Gametracker
Long Beach State vs. Missouri State - 7:00 PM PT - Gametracker
Long Beach State opens their 44th season of volleyball by hosting a tournament, a change in format from ending the season with one. The 49ers will welcome three solid opponents in San Francisco, Indiana and Missouri State. USF is a team familiar to local fans, and Indiana and Missouri State are tradition-rich programs from the Midwest. The season officially opens at Noon on Friday, August 29 when the 49ers host USF in the first match of the tournament. Following that, Missouri State will play the Dons and the 49ers will close the evening with a 7 p.m. match with Indiana. The second day will follow the format of the first, with Indiana playing Missouri State in the morning at 11 a.m., with game two coming at 5 p.m. as USF plays the Hoosiers, and then the 49ers finish the tournament with a game against Missouri State following the USF-IU match. High School students are also invited to come to the game for free on Friday for both sessions - all that is necessary is your student ID.
Climbing the Ranks
After finishing the 2007 ranked no. 23 overall in the nation, Long Beach State begins the 2008 campaign ranked in the Top 25 once more. The 49ers currently stand no. 24 in the nation in the eyes of the AVCA coaches poll, one spot below where they finished the season in 2007. However, the 49ers will get a chance to impress during the opening weekend with three matches finishing with 2007 NCAA Tournament team Missouri State, and will then face two more tournament teams the following week in Florida A&M and No. 8 Florida.
The 49ers are happy to return three all-conference honorees from the 2007 season. First-team All-Big West outside hitter Quincy Verdin returns to help anchor the offense. Verdin was the team's second-leading scorer last year, averaging 3.21 kills per set for one of the Big West's best attacks. Also a key part of that offense, the 49ers return All-Freshman pick Ashley Lee for a second season. Lee was the most balanced member of the team, ranking in the top five in kills, assists and digs for the Beach. Finally, the 49ers also look to the return of four-year starter Nicole Vargas at setter. Vargas, a 2006 first-team selection, was named to the Big West Honorable Mention list in 2007.
Big West Preview
For the second consecutive year, the 49ers were picked to finish second in the league behind Cal Poly in the preseason coaches poll. That order matches the rankings in the initial AVCA Top 25 poll, where the Mustangs ranked No. 10 overall while the 49ers are spotted No. 24. Cal Poly was the unanimous pick to repeat as the conference champion, earning nine first place votes from the nine coaches in the conference. LBSU was second with 68 points, eight ahead of third-place pick UC Irvine. Pacific and UC Santa Barbara rounded out the top five, while the remaining UC schools were in the cellar, UC Riverside slated ahead of UC Davis, who had just 11 points.
Long Beach State has traditionally opened very strongly, winning nine of their last ten openers despite a setback to San Diego last season. In 2006, the last year the 49ers began the year with a home tournament, the 49ers defeated Missouri, Alabama State and Villanova all in three sets.
Scouting San Francisco
Gilad Doran enters his second year with the Dons after leading the team to a 17-13 overall record despite struggling in the WCC. The team loses the 3.62 kills per game of Kristin Hasselberg, but returns WCC Defender of the Year Haley Carroll at libero. The Dons also have two other WCC honorees, as middle blocker Alix Gombos and opposite Sarah Mandala both rTeeturn after honorable mention seasons.
Indiana finished 2007 just under .500 at 15-17, though a tenth-place finish in the Big Ten contributed heavily to that mark, as the Hoosiers went just 6-14 overall in conference play, including a 2-8 record on the road. However, the ream returns nearly their entire starting lineup, brining back five players plus their libero in a team that looks to continue to improve under second-year head coach Sherry Dunbar.
Scouting Missouri State
The most historically prestigious of the three teams in the tournament field, Missouri State also had the best 2007 of the three teams outside of Long Beach. The Bears are one of just four other teams in the nation to have reached 1,000 victories as a program, and made the NCAA Tournament, falling to Oregon in the opening round. Missouri State's overall record in 2007 was 25-8, and the Bears were a very good 9-3 away from Springfield. The Bears return four starters from that team, led by junior outside hitter Sara Staubach (3.38 kpg) and libero Nikki Vandepopulier. The Bears will be led by a new setter however, after the graduation of Katelyn Panzau.
Long Beach State vs. the Field
Early season tournaments can lead to new opponents for a team, and the Long Beach Invitational is no exception. Indiana and Long Beach State will play for the very first time in the tournament, holding up that tradition. While the other two teams have played the 49ers, they are also very infrequent. Despite being in California, Long Beach State has only played USF two times, winning both including the last meeting in straight sets back in 1994. The 49ers have played Missouri State the most, facing the Bears five times and winning all five. However, the teams were meeting while both schools were some of the first programs to adopt volleyball, last meeting in 1973 after playing five years in a row.
Long Beach State features a new-look team, as the 49ers welcome eight newcomers for the 2008 season. Leading the way are three junior college transfers. Filling in the middle are two players by way of Missouri, Ya Chen Wang and Brittney Herzog, and they are joined by Jessica LaScola from Mesa College. The 49ers also welcome High School All-American Cat Highmark, junior beach volleyball team USA representative Caitlin Ledoux, Alexa Manuel, Lauren Minkel, and Jocelyn Neely to round out a recruiting class ranked in the top 10 in the nation.
Long Beach State bid farewell to five seniors following the end of the 2007 season, and all will be missed. In addition to Alexis Crimes, the 49ers' lone four-year senior, the Beach will graduate four other players who each spent two years with the program. Talaya Whitfield spent two years as the team's libero, and leaves with a number of defensive records and a legacy as one of the program's best in the back row. She was joined by Cynthia Buggs, another back-row member whose defense was very strong throughout the season. Sarah Hudson was asked to do a little bit of everything in 2007, and she responded despite roles as varied as being a spot server, outside hitter and libero. FInally, the 49ers lost another great middle blocker in Michaela Hasalikova. Earning All-Big West honors at the position, Hasalikova really came on at the end of the year and was a big part of the 49ers' late-season success.
Starting with a 4-4 season back in 1964 under Dr. Fran Schaafmsa to the 2007 tournament win over UNLV, Long Beach State has been extrodinarily successful, becoming just the fifth program to record 1,000 Division I wins. Brigham Young reached that mark in 2007, joining UCLA, Missouri State and Nebraska with that many, with the Bruins having the most at 1,060. Penn State and Hawai'i will be the next teams to reach that total, but may take one or two years to do so.
This and That
Nicole Vargas begins the season ranked fifth all-time in career assists at Long Beach State ... Iris Murray returns as the libero after missing the 2007 season ... her 398 digs in 2006 are the eighth-most in program history ... congratulations to three 49er alums that won medals in Bejing: Gold for Misty-May Treanor, and Silver for Danielle Scott-Aruda and Tayyiba Haneef-Park.