College Corner: Forgettable fall at Long Beach State

In our dozen years of covering sports together, the fall has been a fun time to write about Long Beach State. More years than not, the women’s volleyball team or the women’s soccer team have been on top of the Big West, including a few years where both teams were crowned conference champions. There was the volleyball team’s undefeated run through the Big West a few years back, and the women’s soccer team’s Elite Eight trip in 2011.

This year? The women’s volleyball team is 6-13 overall and just 3-4 in conference, while the soccer team is 3-10 overall and 1-3 in the Big West.

A forgettable fall to say the least.

The Beach soccer team is in danger of its first losing record since 2009, and the volleyball team needs to go 5-4 over their final nine matches to avoid tying the second-worst record in program history. They’re already all but guaranteed to have a losing record for just the second time since 1986.

So what happened? Just last year, the women’s soccer team was crowned Big West champions and made its sixth NCAA Tournament appearance in the last eight years.

The answer is pretty boring: key players graduating, key returners injured, a few soccer balls bouncing in the wrong direction.

“Things aren’t going the way we’d like,” said LBSU athletic director Andy Fee when asked this week about the tough fall.

Unfortunately, the winter doesn’t look like it will bring much respite. The men’s basketball team finished fifth in the Big West last year and graduated more than 90% of its minutes and point production. The women’s basketball team was picked to finish a dismal eighth in the preseason Big West coaches poll released earlier this week.

How soon can spring get here?

Willie Brown Passes

As if it wasn’t a tough time already around Long Beach State, the school’s former football coach, Willie Brown, passed away earlier this week.

Brown, who was 78, was the final football coach at the university in 1991 before the program was shut down. Brown was well-liked locally, not for the team’s 2-9 ‘91 season, but because he stuck around and coached at Jordan High after Long Beach State shuttered its program.

Brown was a first-ballot Hall of Famer as an NFL player after an exemplary career with the Broncos and Raiders. After leaving Long Beach, Brown served as a front office member of the Raiders for over 20 years.

He’s also the subject of perhaps the greatest film clip in the history of NFL Films:

LBCC Football Starts Off Right

The LBCC football team won conference championships in 2016 and 2017, but struggled last year amid what head coach Brett Peabody called poor work ethic and major character issues. This year’s team has started off 4-2 and won its conference opener easily last Saturday against East Los Angeles College 33-9.

How easy was the win? The team faced a 1st and 40 situation early in the game and ended up converting the first down.

Quarterback Derrach West had more than 350 yards and four touchdowns in the win. Asked what he thought his team’s advantage would be in the game, he laughed.

“We saw mismatches all over the field,” he said. “We felt like anywhere on the field, we had the guys that could help us win.”

The Vikings will hit the long and not-winding road to Bakersfield College, this Saturday, trying to remain undefeated in conference.

LBCC Water Polo

The best college sports program anywhere in Long Beach this fall is in the pool at LBCC. The Vikings men’s water polo team is 20-0 and ranked No. 1 in the State. They have four matches left in the regular season before they begin what should be a long postseason with the conference tournament at Cerritos, Nov. 7-9, the SoCal Regional Playoffs at Riverside College, Nov. 14-16 and the CCCAA State Championships at Golden West Nov. 22-23.

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Mike and JJ go together like mac and cheese: they’re best friends, business partners and Long Beach sports experts. They’ve been working together for over a decade covering Long Beach local sports and now run the562.org, a community-funded nonprofit media outlet.
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