Long Beach State Beats No. 12 Hawai'i in Five-Set Thriller
LBSU earned its first win over a Top 15 team since 2010 with a 3-2 win over No. 12 Hawai'i on Saturday night.
Long Beach, Calif. -
Saturday was a special night inside Walter Pyramid as Long Beach State claimed sole possession of first place in the Big West with a 25-17, 23-25, 25-16, 21-25, 15-13 win over No. 12 Hawai'i. The Beach improves to 12-7 overall, running its winning streak to six straight matches since the start of conference play. Hawai'i saw its seven-match winning streak snapped, as the Rainbow Wahine drop to 12-5 overall and 5-1 in conference, sitting one game back of the Beach.
Saturday's match was played in front of 3,212 fans, the largest volleyball attendance at Long Beach State since 2001. Fans of both teams were treated to a special environment and an entertaining brand of volleyball from the two longtime rivals.
"Tonight was what Long Beach State and Hawai'i have been doing for forever," said LBSU head coach Brian Gimmillaro after the match. "It was great volleyball. What you saw is what volleyball is supposed to look like."
There were several standouts for the Beach, including senior Nele Barber who had 20 kills and 21 digs, recording the first 20/20 match for Long Beach State since she did it on Oct. 24 of last year against Cal Poly. Missy Owens recorded 56 assists and 10 digs, Ashley Murray had 17 kills on .385 hitting, and YiZhi Xue had 11 kills as well.
There were also career nights for a few 49ers, including Anete Brinke, who had 12 kills and a career-best 23 digs. Hailey Harward played an incredible match at libero, recording a match-high and career-high 27 digs. It's the second time the freshman has set a career-best in digs this week after racking up 23 on Wednesday in Riverside.
On the Hawai'i side, Nikki Taylor recorded 28 kills, 19 digs and six blocks to lead the Rainbow Wahine.
This was Long Beach State's first win over a Top 15 team since 2010, when the Beach won 3-2 at No. 14 Washington State. This is also the second win over a ranked team for Long Beach State this season, along with a 3-0 sweep of No. 25 LMU exactly one month ago. LBSU won a defensive set one, holding Hawai'i to a hitting percentage of .000. Murray had five kills on eight swings in the first game, and the Beach defense totaled five blocks and 21 digs. A key 6-0 run put LBSU up 15-10 in the set and the 49ers never looked back, pulling away to win the set, 25-17.
Set two was very tight throughout with 16 ties and six lead changes, but Taylor was the difference with eight kills in the frame. The teams last tied at 22-all, but Taylor put the visitors in front with a kill and delivered another to end it and tie the match, 1-1.
Again the Beach stepped up its defense in the third set, recording 24 digs as a team with three players delivering six or more. Long Beach held Hawai'i to .095 hitting in the third and had a number of scoring runs to pull away for a comfortable 25-16 win. The 49ers went on a 4-0 run to go up 8-4 early, went on a 6-0 run to take a 15-8 lead, then closed the set on a 5-0 surge.
The fourth game was another tight battle, this time with 12 ties and seven lead changes, but Hawai'i had the good fortune of scoring the final four points of the set to win 25-21. Taylor had seven kills in the fourth as the Rainbow Wahine registered a match-high 16 kills in that frame.
It all came down to a fifth game, where both teams saw their hitting percentages spike. Hawai'i easily hit their best of the night at .429, only to see that mark bested by the Beach at .478. Brinke had three kills on four swings, Xue had three on five and Barber had four kills including match point. Neither team led by more than two points in the fifth, and the Beach used the roaring support of the crowd to put away its first try at match point.
Long Beach State is now the only unbeaten team in the Big West, and the first-place 49ers will get a full week to recover before hosting CSUN next Saturday at 7 p.m. inside Walter Pyramid.
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