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NCAA.com | February 18, 2014

NC Preview: LBSU starts eight-game homestand against UC Irvine

Sixth-ranked Long Beach State returns to the friendly confines of the Walter Pyramid for the first time in nearly a month as it begins a season-long eight match homestand by hosting No. 7 UC Irvine and UC San Diego this week.

The 49ers are set to entertain the Anteaters on Wednesday before returning to the court on Friday when they square off against the Tritons. Both matches are slated for a 7 p.m. start at the Walter Pyramid.

Wednesday's match featuring LBSU and UCI will be part of the Black & Blue Rivalry Series. The 49ers currently lead the annual contest 17-7.

Long Beach State remained at No. 6 in this week's AVCA poll released on Feb. 17. Loyola Chicago held on to the No. 1 spot, and was followed by BYU, UCLA, Pepperdine and UC Santa Barbara.

Five 49ers rank among the top-20 in all of NCAA Division I-II in six different statistical categories. Taylor Crabb leads the nation in kills (4.98/set) and points (5.53/set). He also ranks 14th in hitting percentage (.359) and 16th in digs (2.35/set). Connor Olbright is first with 11.81 assists per set, while Andrew Sato is fourth with 2.77 digs per set. In addition, Jeff Ornee (1.32/set) and Taylor Gregory (1.16/set) rank 11th and 16th, respectively, in blocks per set.

Two-time defending national champion and seventh-ranked UC Irvine (9-7, 6-6 MPSF) evened its conference record with a couple of big wins last week as it defeated Southern California 3-2 before sweeping Pepperdine. Zack La Cavera leads the Anteaters with 3.58 kills per set. Collin Mehring is also averaging 1.48 kills and 1.19 blocks per set, while Michael Brinkley has registered a team-best 2.23 digs per set.

Notes from the rest of the top 10:
Top-ranked Loyola Chicago has dropped just two sets in a nine-game win streak. The Ramblers will play Ball State and IPFW, the same opponents as No. 10 Lewis this week. ... No. 2 BYU is idle this week and will resume play on Feb. 28. ... No. 3 UCLA will play Pacific on Sunday and No. 9 Stanford on Monday, flipping opponents with No. 5 UC Santa Barbara. ... Fourth-ranked Pepperdine returns home for one game this week as if faces California Baptist. ... No. 8 Southern California will play host to Hawaii for two games. ...