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The start of Big West Conference play left the Long Beach State (7-5, 1-1) women’s volleyball team in a familiar position. The Beach have delivered some big wins this season–like the five-setter they got against Cal Poly on Friday night–but also some frustrating setbacks.
On Saturday evening at Walter Pyramid, the Beach were hoping for a fifth consecutive victory and a strong start to conference action, but instead suffered a four-set loss against UC Santa Barbara (12-2, 2-0). The teams played pretty even throughout the match, but the visiting Gauchos emerged with a 25-23, 17-25, 25-23, 25-20 victory.
“We knew that our schedule was gonna be tough, and going into conference we got two of the better teams in our conference right out of the gate,” said LBSU head coach Tyler Hildebrand. “And the main thing is, we have a (conference) tournament this year, and so we get to learn from our wins and losses … We’re able to take this and see what we can learn from it and know that we’re building, and have been building all year. So that’s what we’re gonna do.”
The Beach hit just .141 as a team against UCSB’s stout block, as the Gauchos racked up 14 roofs. LBSU was led by 10 kills apiece from Elise Agi and Natalie Glenn. Ella Lomigora added nine kills and Abby Karich had eight.
UCSB’s Tasia Farmer had 15 kills on .379 hitting to go with seven blocks, while Michelle Ohwobete recorded a match-high 16 kills for the visitors.
Glenn and Karich each recorded a pair of aces, as the Beach found an edge in the service game with a 6-1 advantage in aces.
LBSU played its best in set two, hitting .333 in the frame while holding the Gauchos to just .129. Consecutive aces by Karich gave LBSU a 16-11 advantage, and the Beach pulled away with a 5-0 run to close things out and even the match.
Santa Barbara came back out in set three and raced out to a 6-1 lead, but Long Beach recovered quickly with a 7-1 run of its own to lead 12-9. Things got away from LBSU late in the set when a crucial 3-0 run by the Gauchos put them back in front, 22-21. The last of those points was a lengthy video review that went against the Beach and helped UCSB score six of the final eight points in what felt like the decisive game of the night.
Long Beach came out flat in set four, and Hildebrand used his second timeout of the set when UCSB took a 9-3 lead. The Beach never got closer than four points from the Gauchos as they nearly went wire-to-wire in the fourth.
Hildebrand voiced his frustration with his team’s slow starts in each of the final two games.
“There’s something we got to figure out there. We’ve been down 6-1 or 8-3 a lot this year, so we got to figure that out,” Hildebrand said. “To me, that’s on me and that’s on our staff. We have to figure out how we’re certain like that, whether it’s how we train, whether it’s the message to the girls. Our team was great at responding, we’ve done a really good job of responding, but we’ve got to figure out why we’re starting sets like that.”
The Beach were playing without standout senior Katie Kennedy for the fourth consecutive match. Hildebrand did not have an update on her availability for next week’s matches, but acknowledged her importance to the team. He also noted that the Beach has yet to be at full strength for any of their games this season.
Things won’t get any easier for the Beach next week, they’ll be hosting UC San Diego on Thursday and then Big West favorites Hawaii on Friday night. Both matches are set for a 7 p.m. start.