Long Beach State volleyball’s Alex Nikolov makes history with national honor

View Original Notice ? Long Beach State volleyball’s Alex Nikolov makes history with national honor

LOS ANGELES — Long Beach State outside hitter Alex Nikolov added a prestigious honor to his sensational freshman season on Wednesday night, and he made history in the process.

Nikolov was named the National Player of the Year by the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) on Wednesday night at the NCAA Banquet. He is the first player in AVCA history to win the award as a freshman.

Nikolov, who will lead top-seeded Long Beach (20-5) into an NCAA semifinal against UCLA (22-4) on Thursday at 5 p.m. at Pauley Pavilion, joins former LBSU standouts Brent Hilliard (1992), Paul Lotman (2008), Taylor Crabb (2013), TJ DeFalco (2017, 2019), and Josh Tuaniga (2018) in winning the AVCA national honor.

The 6-foot-8 Nikolov, from Bulgaria, has been phenomenal offensively. His 4.60 kills per set leads the Big West Conference and ranks third in the nation. Nikolov had a career-high 28 kills in a four-set Big West Tournament semifinal victory over UC Irvine last month, one of his seven 20-kill performances this season.

His hitting has been outstanding as well. His attack percentage of .385 paces LBSU, ranks second in the conference and 16th in the country. Nikolov has hit .300 or higher in 20 matches this season, including a season-best .667 against UC San Diego (13 kills, one error on 18 swings).

He leads the nation in service aces (0.61 per set) and with 57 total is just three short of Lotman’s program record (2008) with potentially two matches still to play.

Nikolov has done it all efficiently too. He leads the conference in attacks per set (8.81), which is among the 10 best marks in the nation. His points per set average (5.56) tops the Big West and ranks second in the country.

Winning the National Player of the Year award as a freshman puts Nikolov in elite company across NCAA Division I sports. He joins the short list of basketball players Kevin Durant (2007), Anthony Davis (2012), Zion Williamson (2019), and Paige Bueckers (2021) and quarterbacks Johnny Manziel (2012), Jameis Winston (2013).


Who: Long Beach State (20-5) vs. UCLA (22-4)

When: Thursday, 5 p.m.

Where: Pauley Pavilion

How to watch: NCAA.com (streaming)

Did you know? This match is a rematch, to the day, of the 2018 national championship match, which LBSU won, 3-2, at Pauley Pavilion. … Long Beach and UCLA are meeting for the 98th time in a series that dates to 1970. The Bruins hold the edge with an all-time record of 53-44. … They met twice earlier this season, with LBSU sweeping the Bruins at the Walter Pyramid on Feb. 11, before UCLA won, 3-2, on Feb. 19 at the John Wooden Center. … They have split their two NCAA Tournament meetings, with UCLA sweeping Long Beach in the 1970 final.