Long Beach State Volleyball

Women’s Volleyball: Long Beach State Falls to UCLA in Four

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Another great crowd convened at Walter Pyramid on Saturday night, providing the atmosphere for an exciting showdown between UCLA and Long Beach State. With over 2,800 in attendance, most of them cheering loudly for the Beach, the visiting Bruins used their elite block to hold on for a 225-21, 25-20, 25-23, 25-22 victory.

The win improves UCLA to 4-1 on the season, while LBSU drops to 2-3. But for Beach fans, that win-loss record requires some context. Long Beach State has played the 11th toughest schedule in the country this year, according to the Massey Ratings, and features a win over defending national champion Texas.

“I’m really proud of our team and how we played and fought. We’re really close,” said Long Beach State head coach Tyler Hildebrand after the UCLA match. “We’re growing, and we’re learning, and we’re getting better. We have a really tough schedule, and we’re hanging with everybody, and we can beat teams.”

Led by USA National Team middle blocker Anna Dodson, the Bruins put up a devastating block throughout the match, while also scoring consistently out of the middle. Dodson hit .600 for the match with 12 kills and no errors, while also tallying an impressive seven blocks. As a team, the Bruins put up 19 blocks, compared to six for the Beach.

“I think we were just going in with an aggressive mindset and trusting that we have people covering and I think it’s important that we continue that on for the season,” said LBSU’s Elise Agi, who had a dozen kills. “They’re a great blocking team, you know, a huge block, but I think just keeping that aggressive mindset and trusting our system and trusting the people behind us will help.”

Hanna Lesiak also had 12 kills to lead the Beach, with Katie Kennedy adding 11 on an impressive .500 hitting percentage on the right side. Kameron Bacon had nine kills and a team-high three blocks in the middle while libero Savana Chacon recorded 31 digs and a pair of aces.

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Things started slowly for the Beach as they fell behind 9-3 early before a timeout helped settle them down. They twice pulled back within a point in the opening set before the Bruins eventually pulled away with a 4-1 run to close it.

Set two was much more even from the start, with 10 tie scores and five lead changes throughout. The last tie was at 15-15, when the Bruins began to separate, closing the game on a 10-5 run to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the match.

But the home crowd never wavered, and Long Beach was able to ride their energy to a win in set three. A key 7-0 run in the middle of that set turned an 11-7 deficit into a 14-7 lead for the Beach, as setter Zyna Meyer was able to go on a crucial serving run. Meyer ultimately scored set point on a diving dig that UCLA was unable to handle, sending the pro-LBSU crowd into a frenzy.

“I think community is extremely important to us, so we appreciate every single fan that can come out,” said senior outside Hanna Lesiak of the crowd support. “When you have that many fans cheering for you, obviously it brings a really great advantage to your home court. But having this special ‘Why’ that we play for, and when we play for our fans, we play for our coaches, that makes it that much more exciting.”

Set four was another back and forth battle, but the Bruins ultimately edged out the win on consecutive miscues by the Beach. Saturday’s match may not have resulted in a win for Long Beach State, but it represented another positive step in rejoining the upper echelon of women’s volleyball.

“Teams that are building and growing and believe in themselves, they want to be tested,” Hildrbrand said. “The only way we’re going to get this program to the next level is to be tested, and to play great teams. And we want our recruits to know we’re going to do that every year, we’re gonna schedule the best teams we possibly can. We want our fans to know that they can come in and watch exciting games. And that’s the only way you can get there.”

Long Beach State will now hit the road for the first time this season, heading to Nebraska for a pair of tough matches. They’ll face Omaha on Thursday night before another showdown with a Top 5 opponent, playing at Nebraska on Saturday night.

PHOTOS: Long Beach State vs. UCLA, Women’s Volleyball
Tyler Hendrickson
Tyler Hendrickson was born and raised in Long Beach, and started covering sports in his hometown in 2010. After five years as a sportswriter, Tyler joined the athletic department at Long Beach State University in 2015. He spent more than four years in the athletic communications department, working primarily with the Dirtbags baseball program. Tyler also co-authored of The History of Long Beach Poly: Scholars & Champions.