LONG BEACH, Calif. – No. 1 Long Beach State swept fourth-seed UC Irvine, 3-0 (25-19, 25-22, 25-19) in a MPSF semifinal match at the Walter Pyramid Thursday.
"I thought our boys were prepared and ready, but we had some shortcomings in execution during the match", UCI head coach David Kniffin said. "Every time we would get close they would hold steady. Holding the No. 1 team in the country under .300 hitting efficiency usually makes you feel pretty good."
The Anteaters, ranked fifth nationally, snapped a nine-match winning streak and are 20-7 overall. LBSU improves to 26-3 and will face Hawaii in the championship match Saturday.
Senior Tamir Hershko led UCI with nine kills and five digs followed by senior Thomas Hodges with seven kills. Senior setter Michael Saeta had three kills, 27 set assists and five digs, while Aaron Koubi and Dillon Hoffman tied for the team lead in digs with six. Scott Stadick had a team-best two blocks, both solos to move in to sole possession of the UCI single season solo block record at 25.
Kyle Ensing and TJ Defalco posted a team and match-high 10 kills for Long Beach State.
The Forty-Niners owned the net, out-blocking UCI 10-3 and out-hit the Anteaters .284-.112. The team's .112 hitting percentage was the second lowest of the season, only behind the last time UCI played at the Pyramid (.105).
Long Beach State hit .571 (9-1-14) to UCI's .167 (10-6-24) as the Forty-Niners won the first set 25-19. The Anteaters also had eight service errors to add to the trouble. Back-to-back kills by LBSU opened a 7-4 lead and the Forty-Niners never looked back.
UCI held a 9-7 lead in the second set before Long Beach State would out-score the Anteaters 6-3 to go ahead 13-12. A block by Aaron Koubi and Matthew Younggren would put the Anteaters back on top 14-13 then back-to-back attack errors by UCI gave the Forty-Niners the 18-16 edge. LBSU looked in control at 21-18, but UCI rallied on two Forty-Niner errors and a smash from an overpass by Scott Stadick to tie the set at 21-21. Three consecutive UCI errors followed, giving Long Beach set point, 24-21. A Forty-Niner attack would sail long before another Anteater error gave LBSU the set 25-22.
A 4-1 run by Long Beach State in the third set opened a 13-10 gap and two more UCI errors pushed the margin to 15-11. The Anteaters went on a 5-1 run which included a pair of kills by Andrew Benz and two by Tamir Hershko to close within 16-15. UCI would have two attack errors to help LBSU to build back an 18-15 lead. The Forty Niners would go on to take the set 25-19 and the match 3-0.