Huskies heading west for encounter with national power Long Beach St.

By Brian Hayes

Go west young man.

That is exactly what Pete Waite is going to do as he takes the NIU volleyball team to the Golden State this weekend. The team heads to Long Beach, Calif., tonight for a match with the 49ers of Long Beach State University Thursday in the Gold Mine gym. First serve is at 9:30 p.m., DeKalb time.

The Huskies head into the match as the No. 10 team in the newly-released Mideast rankings. They also bring a 15-match winning streak and an unblemished Mid-Continent Conference record at 10-0.

Long Beach State’s credentials resemble that of another team in California called the 49ers. It has won 17 matches in a row after losing its first match of the season to Stanford.

The 49ers are a perfect 9-0 in the Big West Conference. They are ranked No. 1 in the Northwest region and No. 3 in the nation. They finished second in the NCAA Tournament last season after losing in the national final to UCLA. They won the NCAA championship in 1989.

Long Beach State is led by 1991 First Team All-American Danielle Scott. She has been beset by injuries (a sprained ankle and a nagging backache), but even they cannot stop her torrid pace.

Scott leads the Big West Conference in hitting percentage at a .441 clip. She is second in the conference in kills per game with a 4.05 average (247 kills in 433 attempts against 56 errors), and she is fourth in the conference in blocks per game (1.28).

Scott has received Big West Player of the Week honors three times despite her injuries. She sprained her ankle during the first week of practice in August and has had the recurring back pain flare-up since late September.

In a recent interview in the Long Beach Press-Telegram, Scott joked about her situation.

“Maybe I should get injured more,” Scott said. “I really don’t think about the injuries. You have to fight through whatever aches you.”

And if that does not top it all, the 6-2 junior will finish the volleyball season and leap right onto the Long Beach State women’s basketball team in time for the Big West Conference stretch.

The two teams have met only once before. The 49ers took a straight-set match in 1986 in Long Beach.

This will be the first match for the Huskies against a nationally-ranked opponent. The 49ers have faced eight teams ranked in the Top 25 and have posted a 7-1 record against them.