Men's Volleyball, Sports

‘Niners ride Waves to 2nd round of NCAAs

PALO ALTO, Calif. — The Long Beach State women’s volleyball team finds itself in a familiar place: the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

The 24th-ranked 49ers left their opening round match-up Friday against 23rd-ranked Pepperdine with a four-set victory (18-25, 25-23, 25-15, 25-18) at Maples Pavilion on the Stanford University campus. Now it is back to the second round for the third time in four years.

LBSU’s 22nd consecutive NCAA tournament appearance will continue Saturday against No. 2 Stanford at 7 p.m.

Senior setter Nicole Vargas had the best all-around performance for The Beach, totaling 39 assists, 13 digs, seven block assists and six kills. Freshman Caitlin Ledoux and senior Quincy Verdin led the way for the 49ers with 11 kills apiece.

Waves senior Julie Rubenstein led the torrent against LBSU for most of the match, posting a match-high 23 kills and a .378 kill percentage. Junior Kiah Fiers helped maintain the flow of the game by notching 52 assists and providing 12 digs. Junior outside hitter Rachel Lumsden chipped in a double-double of 12 kills and 12 digs.

The ‘Niners (26-5) were a different team after the break, as they smothered the Waves with 15 1/2 team blocks to achieve victory.

An emphatic block in the middle of the fourth set by Ledoux and junior Brittney Herzog summed up the way Pepperdine seemed to be playing — deflated.

“We work very hard on our blocking everyday in practice. That’s the one thing we always try to focus on,” Vargas said. “To come out in the first game and have the ball keep hitting the ground … it’s frustrating because we work so hard on it.”

One of the most dazzling plays in the fourth set was when senior Iris Murray dove to dig the ball at mid-court. The pass found its way to Vargas, who passed the ball to Verdin.

Verdin then displayed soft touch as she dumped the ball past two leaping Waves defenders.

Pepperdine (20-8) hit just .061 for the set with eight errors.

The ‘Niners know that they start slow but are confident that they will play at an optimum level down the stretch.

“I think we, throughout the whole season, get stronger as the game progresses. We’ve been working on [getting strong] in the beginning [of games],” Murray said. “I don’t think any team gets better as the game goes on like we do. When the other teams get tired, that’s when we get stronger.”

Trying to bounce back from a poor performance in the first set, The Beach showed resiliency and took the highly contested second set.

“We change momentum because that’s how we practice, at that execution level each day. So sometimes you won’t, but chances are sometimes you will [change momentum],” LBSU head coach Brian Gimmillaro said.

With LBSU up late in the set, a timeout was called by Pepperdine which scored two quick points to tie the score at 22.

This forced a timeout by Gimmillaro, who provided a motivational message for his team.

“I told them ‘that is where somebody has to do something where they can be remembered,'” Gimmillaro said.

The Beach did just that and junior Naomi Washington ended the set with a fierce block to knot it at one set a piece.

Both teams posted high kill percentages — .457 by Pepperdine and .436 by LBSU — but the ‘Niners committed only a single error.

“I thought we fought for a couple games and then I thought we just got out-muscled and stopped punching back,” Pepperdine head coach Nina Matthies said.

The first set was dominated by Pepperdine, which jumped out to a quick 9-4 lead and showed no signs of slowing.

Rubenstein recorded seven kills in the first set alone while Fiers tallied 17 assists for the Waves.

LBSU was held to a lowly .154 kill percentage in the set.

Pepperdine had a total of 25 hitting errors and 13 serving errors for the match — a crucial component in the outcome of the match, according to Matthies.

“We’ve battled pretty well at 24’s and 25’s all year long [but it just didn’t happen tonight]. Like I told them, we erred ourselves out of the game tonight,” Matthies said.

One Comment

  1. GO BEACH!!!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Daily 49er newsletter