Oct. 20, 2012
Irvine, Calif. - Responding well to continued adversity, Long Beach State battled back from late deficits in all three sets on the road at UC Irvine to defeat the Anteaters 25-23, 25-23, 25-23 in the first matchup in the Black and Blue Rivalry this season. Junior setter Tara Roenicke led the 49ers to .280 hitting with 36 assists, five kills, and 13 digs in her return to the court.
Roenicke, who sprained her ankle last Saturday at Cal State Fullerton and missed a week of practice while the team installed a new offense in the wake of a season-ending injury to junior outside hitter Delainey Aigner-Swesey, looked in command throughout. The junior setter guided the team to .280 hitting, primarily through Chisom Okpala, who led the team with 14 kills on .545 hitting, and Janisa Johnson, who had a double-double with 16 digs and 12 kills for the 49ers.
In amazing symmetry, Long Beach State (11-9, 6-3) trailed the Anteaters 23-22 in all three sets on Saturday, but rallied to score the final three points in each to pick up the victory. The 49ers were also helped by 11 blocks on the night, including six from Okpala, as LBSU had to survive a big night from UC Irvine's Marissa Bubica, who finished with 17 kills on .353 hitting for the Anteaters.
Long Beach State opened the first set with a 4-1 lead, and hit Tiara Wallace for a kill to open up a 7-3 lead. A three-point push by the 49ers capped by a block from Okpala and Roenicke gave Long Beach State a 14-9 edge, but UC Irvine (9-14, 4-5) pulled back, cutting the lead to 16-15 and eventually taking an 18-17 lead after an error by Bre Mackie. Trailing 22-20, Long Beach State got a another block by Okpala and Roenicke, the sixth of the set for the 49ers to tie the set at 22, and back-to-back kills by Okpala allowed the 49ers to take a 25-23 set one win.
The second set was close throughout, with UC Irvine taking their first lead at 6-5 on an ace from Marissa Alvarez, and a kill by Shannon Fleming eventually gave the Anteaters an 11-8 lead. The 49ers were able to tie the set at 12 on a block by Wallace and Mackie, and the teams traded sideouts for most of the rest of the set. UCI took another three-point lead at 21-18, but two kills by Alex Reid tied up the set at 22. Bubica was able to hold the lead for the Anteaters with a kill, but a sideout by Mackie followed by an error brought the 49ers to set point, and Johnson hit a kill out of the back row to give the 49ers a second straight 25-23 win.
Trailing 6-2 after a pair of kills from Bubica, Long Beach State found themselves down 7-2 after a kill from Arielle Manz, who came in as a replacement for UCI in the third set. The 49ers were able to pull back that deficit however, and eventually took a 15-12 lead after back-to-back aces from senior libero Libby Fontanilla. The Anteaters battled back, however, eventually taking the lead at 17-16 following a pair of kills by Manz, and eventually opened up a 22-19 lead on a kill by Victoria Dennis.
Roenicke stemmed the push with a kill, and a pair of kills by Johnson helped the 49ers tie the set at 22-22. Down 23-22 after a kill by Taylor Smith, Long Beach State finally finished off the Anteaters with a kill by Johnson to take the lead, and a final overpass putaway by Okpala.
Long Beach State returns home next weekend, hosting No. 9 Hawaii in a crucial home match at 7 p.m. on October 26 in the Walter Pyramid. That match can also be viewed by a national television audience with live coverage on Fox Sports Prime Ticket.
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