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Long Beach State’s magical run through the Big West Tournament came to an end in the championship match on Saturday against Hawaii, as the Beach’s come-from-behind spark faded against the Rainbow Warriors. The Beach trailed early in all three sets of a sweep defeat, 26-24, 25-15, 25-10.
“I told the team we had a heck of a season,” said Beach coach Tyler Hildebrand. “It was an 11-month journey to get here.”
Hildebrand wasn’t willing to give up on his team’s chances at an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, with brackets slated to be released on Sunday. “We believe we have a strong shot in a number of areas and criteria, and we’ll be up all night sending that in to the committee. We’re having a watch party tomorrow because we think we have a shot. Whether we get in or not, this is the most proud of a group of young women I’ve ever been.”
The Beach struggled with Hawaii’s serve all night, as the Rainbow Warriors had six aces and had the Beach scrambling in serve receive all night.
In the first set, the two teams were close for the first 10 points before Hawaii middle blocker Amber Igiede got her excellent night going, with back-to-back kills to help give the Bows a 14-10 lead. The two teams battled with Hawaii fending off the Beach until they held a 24-21 call.
Then Elise Agi wiped a kill off the block for the Beach, Hawaii misplayed a free ball for another Beach point, and then the Bows hit it into the net after a great serve from Tia Chavira to tie it up at 24-24. Hawaii would take the frame after Chavira’s next serve went into the net and then Riley Wagoner got a big kill outside to finish it.
The Beach fell behind 1-0 despite slightly outhitting Hawaii, .233 to .222, as the Bows out-blocked the Beach 3-0.
In the second set, the Beach kept it close thanks in part to Hawaii spraying hitting errors, but after the Beach cut the lead to 14-13, Hawaii went on a 5-0 run to pull away, then closed it out on an ace and an attempt from Elise Agi that went sailing long. Hawaii took the second set 25-15 and outhit the Beach .179 to .037 in that frame.
The third set was all Hawaii as they raced out to a 9-1 lead and never looked back, blowing the doors off the Pyramid with a 25-10 win, hitting .667 to Long Beach State’s .083.
Igiede finished with 16 kills on .522 hitting, with five blocks and two aces to lead th eBows. Wagoner added eight kills. Setter Kate Lang had 36 assists.
For Long Beach, Agi had eight kills but on just .038 hitting with seven hitting errors; Kameron Bacon, Hanna Lesiak, and Natalie Glenn had five kills each. Setter Zayna Meyer had 23 assists.
The Rainbow Warriors clinched the Big West’s automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament, and will await the bracket release on Sunday.