LBSU Drops Four-Set Battle at UC Santa Barbara
The Beach played tough on the road but came up short in a 25-23, 18-25, 25-16, 27-25 loss at UC Santa Barbara.
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Long Beach State fell short in its quest for a road win on Friday night at the Thunderdome, suffering a 25-23, 18-25, 25-16, 27-25 defeat against UC Santa Barbara. The Gauchos improved to 5-15 overall and 4-4 in Big West play while Long Beach State falls to 6-16 and 3-6 in conference matches.
Sophomore Hailey Harward remained at outside hitter and posted a career-best 20 kills on 52 swings, while also adding eight digs. Redshirt junior Emma Kirst led Long Beach State with a career-best nine blocks as LBSU held a 16.0-6.0 advantage in blocking. Junior Megan Kruidhof recorded her fourth double-double of the season with 11 kills and 15 digs.
LBSU got off to a strong start in set one, leading 9-3 on consecutive aces from libero Rachel Nieto, who also added 12 digs in the match. UCSB battled back to take the lead at 18-17 on the strength of a 5-0 run, and it was an even set to the finish. Unfortunately for the Beach, UCSB standout Lindsey Ruddins took over late, recording a kill and consecutive solo blocks to finish off the set with a 3-0 Gauchos run. Kruidhof had five kills and five digs in the first frame, but LBSU couldn’t quite finish it off.
In set two, the Beach got the match level by holding UCSB to -.054 hitting. LBSU had four blocks in the set and Harward heated up with six kills. The key stretch was a 6-0 run that turned a 15-14 lead into a 21-14 advantage for the Beach. The run was served by Radi Marinova, who was able to return to action after missing a few weeks with injury. A Kruidhof kill down the line ended the set and evened the match, 1-1.
Set three was tough from the outset as the Gauchos raced out to a 5-1 lead. LBSU was able to rally and tie the match at 9-9, but eventually faded in the late stages. It certainly didn’t help when sophomore YiZhi Xue was injured during set three and forced to leave the match. The Beach would surrender an 8-0 run to the Gauchos turning a close set (15-14) into a comfortable 25-16 win for Santa Barbara.
It looked as if the Gauchos were headed for a comfortable win in the fourth, but a resilient Beach squad didn’t go quietly. UCSB led 21-14 in the fourth, but LBSU battled back by winning nine of the next 11 points to tie the set at 23-all. Kirst and Monika Simkova had back-to-back roofs of Ruddins to pull the Beach within one and force a Gauchos timeout, then Kruidhof got things tied with a kill. The Beach would survive a pair of match points before Ruddins eventually won the match by beating a triple block from the back row for her 27th kill.
LBSU has an even tougher road test in store on Saturday, facing No. 23 Cal Poly on the road. The first-place Mustangs are now 8-0 in Big West play coming off a sweep of CSUN on Friday. First serve between Cal Poly and Long Beach State is set for 4:30 p.m. on Saturday in San Luis Obispo.
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