#BWCWarmUp Fall Preview - Long Beach State
BigWest.org chatted with Long Beach State head coaches Mauricio Ingrassia (women's soccer) and Brian Gimmillaro (women's volleyball) to preview the upcoming 2014 season.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IN 2014
Wrangling Her Way To The Top: After being named the 2013-14 Freshman of the Year, expect sophomore Mimi Rangel to come out of the blocks just as fast in her sophomore campaign. The midfielder led the 49ers with five goals and four assists for a 14-point total last season. Rangel’s five goals ranked fifth in league while her 14 points tied for fourth-best in the conference. With just a single season under her belt, Rangel is already ranked sixth among active Big West players with three career game-winning goals.
Golden Gloves: Junior goalkeeper Kaci McCain posted a 0.90 goals against average in her sophomore campaign which ranked seventh in LBSU single-season history and third-best in the Big West. After logging just over 11 minutes as a freshman, McCain started all but two games in 2013 as she notched 57 saves and a .792 save percentage, while owning an 8-5-3 record with four shutouts. Said head coach
Mauricio Ingrassia, “Kaci has a lot of experience back there. She is very vocal and has worked hard this summer. She’s played a lot of games and has kept herself busy. She’s definitely someone that’s going to be competing for the [starting goalkeeper] position.”
Achieving Their “Goals”: The Beach ranked No. 1 in the Big West in goals scored in 2011 (49) and 2012 (36), but the overall production fell last season when they finished fifth in the conference with 19. Coach Ingrassia stressed that LBSU will refocus on maintaining ball possession in an effort to generate more scoring opportunities. In terms of total number of shots taken, LBSU’s total dropped from 292 in
2012 to 193 in 2013. By training to become a more possession-oriented team, the 49ers look to strengthen themselves offensively this year.
Shape-Shifter: In 2011 when the 49ers made a run to the Elite Eight, then-freshman midfielder Taylor Nelson netted a goal and four assists as she helped lead them to an 18-6-1 record. Since then, Nelson made a challenging transition from the midfield to a defender and garnered first-team All-Big West honors while anchoring a backline that recorded a 1.07 goals against average and four shutouts in 2013. Nelson has been named a captain for her senior season and is expected to play a big role for the 49ers in her final campaign. “We’re looking to her to lead us from the back,” said Ingrassia. Nelson also looks to enter the school’s all-time leader board for career games played.
Veteran Vitality: Ingrassia emphasized that his squad gained invaluable experience while going through ups and downs as a young squad in 2013, and feels that the added maturity has better prepared them this season. “I think they know what to expect. They know how to get ready for it.” The 49ers return seven starters including Rangel, Nelson, First Team All-Big West junior Elizabeth Lyons and All-Freshman
honoree Mimi Akaogi. This looks to be a more veteran squad than Ingrassia has had the past couple of years, and he’s looking to those veterans to bring a sense of maturity, familiarity with the conference and collegiate experience to lead the seven newcomers, six of whom are freshmen.
QUOTABLES – MAURICIO INGRASSIA
(On incoming class): “We definitely needed attacking players and we got that. We needed some help in the middle and we got that. Adding a little more depth always helps.”
(On Mimi Rangel): “She brings excitement to the game. She’s a joy to watch. It’s fun to know that we have her for three more years. We are hoping to be able to surround her with players that will make her talents shine. And she knows that there’s no guarantee, she’s very humble and she knows that she’s going to have to work just as hard as last year, for what’s coming up this year.”
(On Taylor Nelson): “She’s a very athletic player, very passionate, very strong character. Great leader. She’s very technical so she can play in a few different positions but having her in the back, especially with the young team, [she’s] somebody that makes the people around her better. She’s kind of like the backbone so that when people look to her, they gain confidence. And now this is her senior year. She’s worked very hard. She has big aspirations for this season and beyond. I look forward to coaching Taylor her last year.”
(On team’s philosophy): “It’s one moment at a time, which leads to one play at a time. One training session at a time, one day at a time. And trying to give our best in each moment so that those good days add up and we build good soccer karma for ourselves working as hard as we can and making our own luck.”
(On team’s identity): “They fight for each other.”
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
1 Program’s first-ever Big West Freshman of the Year went to Mimi Rangel after a stellar 2013 campaign
4 Number of NCAA Tournament appearances in the last six years
7 Opponents on this year’s schedule that reached the 2013 NCAA Tourney, including Sweet 16 participants Wake Forest and Santa Clara
8 Winning seasons that Ingrassia has had in his 10 years at the helm
731 Home attendance average which ranked second-best in the conference last season
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IN 2014
Two-Way Power: Last season Long Beach State paced the Big West Conference with a 2.70 blocks per set average thanks in part to 6-foot-2 middle blocker Chisom Okpala, who registered a 1.15 mark to rank third in the league. Along with her defensive prowess, the senior from Yorba Linda, Calif., was a force to be reckoned with on offense, boasting the league’s second-best hitting percentage of .351. Her talent on the court helped her garner a second-consecutive American Volleyball Coaches Association’s All-Region accolade.
LBSU Opens With A Bang: The 49ers are put to the test right out of the gate this year as they head to the midwest for the season-opening Illini Classic to face host Illinois and North Carolina, who both finished 2013 ranked in the Top 25, and Southern Illinois. The two-day event may be a litmus test on how Long Beach State may fare when it enters the always-competitive Big West Conference portion of its schedule. Long Beach State also hosts back-to-back tournaments that features west region teams Idaho, San Francisco, Loyola Marymount and Saint Mary’s.
Familiar Faces: Long Beach State fans will see a multitude of familiar faces this year, including Okpala, a member of the 2013 All-Big West First Team. Joining Okpala in the 49ers’ lineup are outside hitter Alex Reid, who finished second on the team last season with a 2.90 kill average, and opposite Bre Mackie, who notched 2.19 kills per match. Mackie also ranked second on LBSU’s squad last year with a .273 hitting percentage.
In With The New: The veterans will have some additional help by the 10th-ranked recruiting class, according to PrepVolleyball, and two international players - Sophie Bukovec and Anete Brinke - who were not included on PrepVolleyball’s ranking of the incoming recruiting classes but have the potential to make an immediate impact. Providing some assistance at the setter position is Iowa State transfer Jenelle Hudson, who ranked second in the Big 12 Conference last season with an 11.06 assist average. In all, eight newcomers will be donning black and gold this season.
The Big 3-0: Long Beach State Head Coach Brian Gimmillaro enters his 30th season at the helm of the 49ers women’s volleyball program. The eight-time Big West Coach of the Year has guided the 49ers to three National Championships, eight Final Fours, 13 NCAA Regionals and 26 NCAA Tournament appearances. Gimmillaro, one of just 21 coaches all-time to eclipse the 700-win threshold, owns a 762-200 record (.792).
QUOTABLES – BRIAN GIMMILLARO
(On the recruiting class): “I think most of the players Prepvolleyball.com talked about are long term players. The ones that will come in immediately and help were actually two players not on the list. I also hope that Ashley Murray can come in and help right away and we are looking at a couple other players to provide some help.”
(On the two international recruits): “The players on the list that will actually help us this year are Anete Brinke, a middle blocker from Lativa, and Sophie Bukovec, from Canada, is an outside hitter. I think we have a strong returning group and with the players I mentioned, I believe we will have a better team.”
(On the postseason): “I think it is important for all of us to position ourselves to represent the conference in the NCAA Tournament. I think that is the key. Can we all get into the tournament? That is what may be more important to everyone. I think that is the focus.”
(On the 2014 schedule): “It is not the way you want it to be scheduled but we are opening at an Illinois tournament and two of these teams should be ranked top 25 and all three should make the NCAA Tournament. It makes it hard to open the season away and against so many quality teams. If we could be successful there, it will be really good for us and for the conference.”
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
10 Ranking Long Beach State received in the PrepVolleyball.com Top 30 recruiting class for 2014
12 Big West championship titles, with the last coming in 2011
27 Number of consecutive winning seasons for the 49ers, all under head coach Brian Gimmillaro
78 The height (in inches) of incoming freshman Sherridan Atkinson, the highest rated recruit on PrepVolleyball’s Senior Aces list
132 Conference-leading blocks total in 2013 (tied) for returning senior Chisom Okpala