After the Long Beach State women’s volleyball team’s four-set loss to UCLA, junior libero/hitter Hailey Harward was seated at a black table waiting for the postmatch press conference to begin. She banged the table and leaned over to head coach Joy McKienzie-Fuerbringer. “Ah! We’re so close,” she said.
Indeed, the 49ers were tantalizingly close to beating No. 16 UCLA, winning the second set and then dropping the third and fourth by two points, falling 25-21, 17-25, 25-23, 25-23.
“I’m really proud of the execution,” said McKienzie-Fuerbringer. “I thought we played well.”
The 49ers had almost 1,500 fans in attendance for the match and played their best contest of the season, holding the Bruins to .210 hitting while hitting .199 themselves. Harward, as hypercompetitive as they come, starred with 16 kills, 14 digs, two aces and a block.
“I’m never satisfied with losing,” she said. “Being two points away against a ranked opponent shows how far we’ve come, but we have to get those two points.”
A sign of how competitive Long Beach was in the match was the way it ended, with most of the crowd booing what was perceived as a missed touch call by the officials on match point for the Bruins. One of those who perceived a touch that wasn’t called was McKienzie-Fuerbringer.
“I was standing right on the 10-foot line and I thought I saw a tough, it looked obvious,” she said. “They didn’t see it the same way…I was a little disappointed with the way it ended.”
Freshman Carly Aigner-Swesey looks like she should maintain her grasp on the team’s setting spot, dishing up 50 assists with the team hitting .385 on her sets. Kashauna Williams had 16 kills in the loss, while Tyler Spriggs had 14. Gigi Alex led with 16 digs, backed up by Harward’s 14, 13 from Aigner-Swesey and a career high 12 for Long Beach Poly grad Dylan De La Cruz.
Long Beach State (6-5) hosts Lamar on Friday night and Fresno State on Saturday night before opening conference play next week against UC Riverside.