Men's Volleyball, Sports

LBSU draws UCLA to open NCAAs

Head coach Brian Gimmillaro’s prediction came to fruition Sunday afternoon at Legends Sports Bar and Grill. He then made a few more bold predictions.

The Long Beach State women’s volleyball team will travel to Pauley Pavilion and face the No. 8-seeded UCLA Bruins in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday. First serve is scheduled for 8 p.m.

LBSU, which won the Big West Conference, will make its 23rd consecutive trip to the tournament and 24th overall appearance.

“It’s where we predicted just before the [selection] show came on,” he said as he addressed the crowd that gathered to watch the 64-team field unveiled on ESPNEWS. “We predicted UCLA because of the teams that we figured were going.”

The Bruins will host the first and second rounds for the sixth time in the last seven years. UCLA is 14-0 all-time in first and second round matches at Pauley Pavilion since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1998. The team is also 54-19 all-time against The Beach and 3-1 in NCAA Tournament matches.

However, the 49ers (22-8) swept the Bruins (23-8) in a mid-September upset at the Cal State Fullerton Tournament. But Gimmillaro is familiar with the famous sports adage that beating the same team twice is not an easy task.

“Beating a good team twice in the same season … is a different preparation. There’s no formula,” Gimmillaro said. “[UCLA] has an incredible motivation.”

Junior setter Ashley Lee is more than content with staying close to home, as opposed to last year’s site at Stanford.

“I’m very excited,” she said. “Our families, friends — everybody can come … and hopefully my grandpa.”

Fellow Big West member UC Santa Barbara was also selected as an at-large bid and will face Saint Mary’s in Palo Alto.

Undefeated Penn State (32-0) drew the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament and was placed in the same Gainesville, Fla. Regional as LBSU. Gimmillaro wasn’t afraid to look ahead to a possible Elite Eight meeting for the right to advance to the Final Four.

“Penn State may have to play Long Beach State to go to the Final Four. It’s the only tough match they will have [to get there],” he told the crowd.

Gimmillaro also predicted to play Baylor (22-9) in the second round, “then off to Florida to play [No. 9-seeded California].”

The winner of LBSU/UCLA will play the winner of Baylor/Georgia Tech (21-9) on the following night at 7 p.m. The winner of that second-round match will travel to Gainesville and face either Cal, Lipscomb, Cincinnati or Ohio State.


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