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Resilient Long Beach State Fights Back For Five-Set Win Over Cal Poly

A career-high 24 kills from Nele Barber led a furious comeback for the Beach in a 3-2 win over Cal Poly.
Oct. 24, 2015

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Long Beach, Calif. - Behind Nele Barber's career night, a determined Long Beach State women's volleyball team earned a gutsy comeback win over Cal Poly (15-5, 7-2 Big West), evening the season series with the Mustangs to move into a tie for second in the Big West Conference. Despite losing the first two sets, the 49ers (17-5, 7-2 Big West) never relented and pushed the match long into the evening before a Jenelle Hudson dump shot finished off an epic 25-27, 14-25, 25-21, 25-23, 19-17 win.

Barber established new career highs in both kills and digs, finishing with the first 20/20 match of her career. The junior finished the night with a match-high 24 kills to go with an even 20 digs, surpassing her previous best marks by three in each category. Not to be overlooked, Hudson tied he season high with 51 assists and set a new personal benchmark in digs with a match-leading 26.

The teams combined to dig the ball 213 times on the night with nine players reaching double-figures--five from Long Beach State, four from Cal Poly. Lindsey Lawmaster also reached 20 digs while Sarah Miller added 17. Taylor Nelson had a team-high 23 ups for the Mustangs to go along with her 57 assists.

Peyton Grahovac matched a career high with 13 kills and Hayley Benson was in on 10 of Long Beach State's 17 blocks. Raeann Greisen and Adlee Van Winden each had 21 kills to lead the Mustangs while Van Winden added 17 digs.

Long Beach State had two chances to claim the opening set, but Cal Poly made plays in key moments to take a 27-25 win and the subsequent 1-0 lead. LBSU made the first move of the set, using a 5-0 run to grab a 10-6 lead. The 49ers would maintain a slim advantage until the Mustangs tied the set at 20-20, forcing a Beach timeout. Carly Beddingfield answered with a kill after the stoppage, helping the `Niners out to a 24-22 lead.

Cal Poly pulled the match even at 24-all on consecutive Van Winden kills, then took a 25-24 edge thanks to a 49er hitting error. A Grahovac kill staved off Cal Poly's first set point chance, but the Mustangs took the next two points with Van Winden's sixth kill of the frame and a 49er shot into the net.

That frustration for the 49ers carried over into set two as Cal Poly started on a 4-0 run, and led 6-3 when Long Beach used its second timeout of the set. At 10-7, the Mustangs pulled away for good on the strength of an 8-0 run. Greisen had three consecutive kills during that stretch, and Beach head coach Brian Gimmillaro was issued a yellow card during the run. Long Beach hit just .075 in the first set and .024 in the second, needing a quick turnaround to avoid a sweep.

Fortunately for the 49ers, they were able to make that happen in the third behind an important stretch from Barber. She put up a solo roof in between a pair of kills to go on a 3-0 run by herself, turning a 9-8 deficit into an 11-9 LBSU lead. From that point until 22-20, the Beach lead never grew larger than two and the teams tied seven times.

A key 4-0 run put Long Beach up 24-20 as Grahovac put one down, and it was Barber who would do the honors two points later to keep the Beach alive in the match. Ashley Murray had five of her seven kills in that third set and Barber posted five kills, eight digs and a pair of blocks in the frame.

She was good in the third, but Barber was a star in the fourth, registering nine kills to carry the offense. No one else had more than one kill for Long Beach State as the 6-foot German took the match over. Cal Poly was able to pull ahead 22-19 late in the fourth set, but with a kill, a block and another kill off the block, Barber was able to pull the match tied at 22-22.

After Van Winden put Cal Poly ahead, Barber buried another shot to pull back even. A service ace from Miller gave the Beach set point and a hitting error by Greisen sent the match to a fifth game.

The teams were understandably tight to start the final set and the score was tied at 5-all early on. Cal Poly pulled ahead with a 3-0 run on a pair of 49er mistakes and a big Greisen kill, forcing a Long Beach timeout. A kill and solo block from Barber on consecutive points tied the set at 10, but the Mustangs would again claim a three-point lead, albeit through more interesting circumstances.

A 49er error followed by a Van WInden kill put Cal Poly up 12-10, and then came the most bizarre play of the night. An overpass from the Mustangs came over the net and was headed wide. As Cal Poly tracked the ball onto the Long Beach State side of the net, Barber did so as well, sliding in front of the onrushing Cal Poly player. Barber was whistled for interference, giving the point to the Mustangs and causing an uproar amongst the Long Beach State fans.

Following an LBSU timeout, the Mustangs served long and Grahovac put down an important kill to pull within one. Long Beach eventually scored four straight after a Mustang error and a huge kill from Barber, getting the first chance at match point, 14-13. Finally, on their fifth match point of the night, Hudson's well-placed dump ended a long and feverish rally, completing the comeback and sending the Pyramid into pandemonium.

The victory extends Long Beach State's home conference winning streak to 16 games and improves the Beach to 4-1 in five-set matches and 2-2 in matches when they've trailed 2-0. Interestingly enough, the 49ers are now 10-0 on Saturdays this season.

Next up, the Beach begins a three-game road trip with a match at UC Irvine on Thursday at 7 p.m., followed by a trip to UC Davis for a Saturday match on Halloween Night.



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