Harward Powers LBSU Past UC Riverside in Five
Long Beach State pulled out a 25-18, 15-25, 22-25, 25-22, 15-8 victory over UC Riverside on Friday night, led by a career-best 21 kills from sophomore Hailey Harward.
LONG BEACH, Calif. - It took five sets once again, but Long Beach State (8-19, 5-9 Big West) completed a season sweep of UC Riverside (9-15, 1-11 Big West) on Friday night, picking up a 25-18, 15-25, 22-25, 25-22, 15-8 win at Walter Pyramid. The Beach and the Highlanders opened conference play with a five-set match on Sept. 19 in Riverside, which LBSU also won, 3-2.
Sophomore Hailey Harward led the Beach with a career-high 21 kills on Friday night. Ironically, it's the second time an LBSU player has recorded a career-high 21 kills against the Highlanders this season after Megan Kruidhof accomplished the same feat in the previous meeting. Harward added 11 digs for her fourth double-double of the season and also chipped in three blocks.
Redshirt senior Rachel Nieto led the Beach with a career-best 22 digs, going over 20 in a match for the first time. Freshman Radi Marinova recorded her first career double-double with a personal best 13 kills to go with 10 digs. Fellow freshman Mina Andjelkovic filled in at setter, recording 55 assists and nine digs in her first career start. Kruidhof had a strong night with 16 kills and Emma Kirst added eight on .375 hitting. YiZhi Xue had six kills and a team-high six blocks.
The Beach totaled an impressive 20 kills in the first set, getting five apiece from Harward and Kruidhof while Marinova added four and Kirst had three. LBSU hit .444 in the opening frame to take the set comfortably, despite the Highlanders committing just one hitting error. There were 10 ties in the first, with the last one coming at 13-13. That's when LBSU pulled away with a 5-1 run and never looked back. The Beach scored five of the final seven points of the set to win it going away, 25-18, on a big spike from Harward.
Long Beach State cooled off in the second set, posting just eight kills against 10 errors allowing UC Riverside to even the match at a set apiece. With the teams tied 6-6, the Highlanders used a 7-1 run to build a 13-7 lead and LBSU was unable to get back in the set.
Harward and Kruidhof got things going again in set three, recording six and five kills, respectively, but UC Riverside was able to take a 2-1 lead in the match. LBSU recorded four team blocks in the third game, including four from Xue, but the Highlanders had 20 digs to counter defensively. The Beach faced a 21-15 deficit and battled back with 5-1 run, but couldn't get closer than two in a 25-22 UCR win.
In a must-win fourth set, LBSU rallied to hit .417, getting seven kills on 12 swings from Harward. Nieto added seven digs in the frame and Marinova chipped in five kills. A 5-1 Beach run helped provide some breathing room, putting the home team up 12-7. From there, the Beach kept the Highlanders at arm's length and a Marinova kill sent the match to a fifth game.
Set five went Long Beach's way as UCR hit -.333 in the decisive frame. With the set tied at three, LBSU went on a 4-1 spurt thanks to three Highlander hitting errors. Later in the set, Harward's solo block kicked off a nice run as UCR followed with an error, then Kirst and Andjelkovic combined for another block to make it 13-6 Beach.
Long Beach State returns to action Saturday night, hosting Cal State Fullerton at 7 p.m. inside Walter Pyramid.
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