Nov. 29, 2011
Long Beach, Calif. -
It all comes down to this, as Long Beach State heads to UCLA for the first and second round of the NCAA Tournament. In the first round, it's a rematch from last season, as the No. 23 49ers take on No. 20 San Diego in the only matchup between ranked teams in the first round on Friday, Dec. 2 at 5:30 p.m. in the Wooden Center at UCLA. The winner of that match will then face the winner between Maryland-Eastern Shore and No. 4 UCLA on Saturday, Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. Gametracker, live audio, and live video will be available for any Long Beach State matches through www.longbeachstate.com.
Drive For 25
Mission Complete. Long Beach State's win over Pacific on Friday, Nov. 11, gave the 49ers their 12th Big West Championship, and secured the Big West's automatic entry into the NCAA Tournament. That sends the 49ers to their 25th consecutive tournament, a feat only matched by Penn State, Nebraska, and Stanford. Only Penn State (Russ Rose) has made that many tournaments under one coach, as the 49ers have under Brian Gimmillaro. The 49ers were one of three teams in the nation to have guaranteed their trip to the 2011 tournament with two weeks to play, joining Tulsa (C-USA) and Yale (Ivy) in that accomplishment.
Long Beach State hosted three non-conference games in the Walter Pyramid during the final week of the season, and picked up wins in all three. First, the 49ers dispatched LMU in three sets. Facing an NCAA Tournament team in Central Michigan, Junior Janisa Johnson had a phenomenal match, making 14 kills with no errors on .538 hitting to lead the 49ers past the Chippewas. Then on Senior Night, senior Caitlin Ledoux put away 16 kills to put the 49ers at 23-6 entering the NCAA Tournament. Johnson earned both Big West and AVCA National Player of the Week honors for her effors, as the junior had 33 kills and 32 digs on the week while reaching 15 straight wins.
We're Going Streaking!
Long Beach State's three wins this past weekend extended the 49ers winning streak to 15 matches, the longest winning streak since the 2001 season at The Beach, when the 49ers went undefeated in the regular season on the way to the championship match. The current streak moves past 2007, when the 49ers won 13 straight, closing out the season with that run before falling in five sets at USC in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The 49ers have a way to go before reaching the team's all-time record, set from 1972-83 when the team won 54 straight matches. The 49ers also reached a 42-match winning streak after going undefeated during the 1998 campaign.
Scouting The UCLA Sub-Regional
Host UCLA enters the tournament as the No. 9 seed and the No. 4 team in the AVCA poll. The Bruins finished the season with a 24-6 overall record, and finished second place in the Pac-12, led by Rachel Kidder, a junior outside hitter who averaged 4.59 kills per set in the regular season. No. 20 San Diego enters the tournament with a 27-4 overall record, and are led by sophomore middle blocker Chloe Ferrari, who finished with 325 kills on a .384 hitting percentage. Maryland-Eastern Shore is making their first-ever NCAA appearance behind MEAC Rookie of the Year Saitaua Iosia, who led the Haks in hitting at .301 and kills per set at 4.14.
Long Beach State vs. the Toreros, Bruins, and Hawks
Starting with the shortest series, Long Beach State has a 1-0 record against the Hawks, winning in a tournament in San Diego in 2003. As for the Toreros themselves, Long Beach State holds a 10-7 edge in the all-time series, but have lost the last six matches against USD, including last year's first-round matchup at USC, and twice in the NCAA tournament in that stretch. UCLA's all-time record against Long Beach State stands at 58-24 in favor of the Bruins after UCLA's 3-1 neutral-site win in Hawaii this season. The 49ers were eliminated in the 2009 tournament by UCLA, but defeated the Bruins earlier in the 2009 season, setting UCLA's winning streak at two matches against Long Beach State.
One season after ranking eighth nationally in blocking, the 49ers are back at it in 2011. Long Beach State is currently fourth in the nation in blocking as a team, behind Washington, Colorado State and Stanford, and finish the regular season averaging 3.12 blocks per set. After finishing third in the nation in 2010, Haleigh Hampton ranks fifth nationally at 1.57 blocks per set, which is also the best in the Big West. Freshman Alma Serna is also joining the party, ranking second in the Big West and 25th nationally, averaging 1.33 blocks per set. Hampton's totals have brought her up to ninth in school history in total blocks in just her sophomore season.
Senior Caitlin Ledoux became just the seventh four-time first-team All-Big West selection, joining sophomore Haleigh Hampton as the two first-team All-Big West selections for the Big West champions. Sophomore Delainey Aigner-Swesey was tabbed as an honorable mention, and setter Erin Juley and middle blocker Alma Serna both received a selection on the Big West All-Freshman team.
The 49ers announced that two prospective student-athletes signed National Letters of Intent for the 2012 season. Long Beach State will welcome in Alex Reid, a 6-0 outside hitter from Grandview, Colo., as well as Tiara Wallace, a 6-4 middle blocker from Culver City, Calif. Both players are on the AVCA High School All-America Watch List, and both were named "Senior Aces" by Prep Volleyball, listing the top 250 recruits in the nation. Reed was also selected as an AVCA Second-Team High School All-American.
Keep On Digging
Senior Libero Lauren Minkel is within sight of a tremendous career mark, as she continues to climb the career digs list at Long Beach State. Making 43 digs in three matches last week, Minkel passed 1,600 digs, and now has 1,638 digs, in front of a two-time national player of the year, Tara Cross. Minkel would reach the top of the list by passing Long Beach State's first full-time libero, Heather Laudato, who recorded 1,686 career digs from 2002-05 with 49 digs in the NCAAs. Minkel also reached the Top 10 in Big West career history as well last weekend (9th - 1,661).
Caitlin Ledoux has had another tremendous season, and continues to move up the career kill lists at Long Beach State.Following the end of the regular season, Ledoux has 1,573 career kills, and joins two 49er greats in Tara Cross and Antoinette White as the only 49ers to reach 1,500 career kills and 1,000 career digs. Next up on the career list is another 49er great, Cheryl Weaver, at 1,589 kills -- Ledoux can pass Weaver with 17 kills in the NCAA Tournament.
Long Beach State has one of the youngest teams in the nation in 2011. Seniors Lauren Minkel and Caitlin Ledoux are the only two members of Long Beach State's current roration that has more than one full year of experience on the floor, and five freshman have had more than 20 sets played this season in middle blocker Alma Serna, outside hitter Bre Mackie, setter Erin Juley, and two DS players in Tyler Jackson and Chelsea Cabrajac. Long Beach State ranks in a tie for fourth in the nation in the number of freshman and sophomores on the team with 13 in total.
This and That
Long Beach State has never left the state of California for the opening round of the NCAA Tournament in 26 appearances ... Setter Erin Juley is one of nine true freshman to lead their team to the NCAA Tournament.
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