Sports, Women's Sports, Women's Volleyball

49ers dig up pair of wins despite setbacks

The Long Beach State women’s volleyball team overcame injuries and some poor play early to defeat a pair of Big West Conference opponents over the weekend.

Looking for a comeback performance after a disappointing road trip, the 49ers invited UC Davis and Pacific to the Walter Pyramid, where they promptly beat both of them with relative ease.

Against the Aggies (8-9, 2-2 Big West), The Beach (9-8, 4-2 Big West) dropped a sloppy first set, but responded by taking the next three en route to a 19-25, 25-19, 25-22, 25-19 victory.

It seemed that all either team had to do to win a set was score first, as the match featured no lead changes and only six ties.

LBSU was down two starters, as sophomores Alma Serna and Chelsea Cabrajac were sidelined by injuries, but the ‘Niners experimented with different lineups and seemed to find a groove with timely hitting and improvement on defense as the night went on.

Janisa Johnson came up huge for The Beach all night, as she consistently connected from both the front and back rows.

The senior outside hitter led the charge with 15 kills and 15 digs on .261 hitting, one of three 49er double-doubles on the night.

Junior outside hitter Delainey Aigner-Swesey added 14 kills and 15 digs on .211 hitting while junior setter Tara Roenicke tallied 45 assists, 13 digs and three kills.

“We’ve been working a lot in practice with different lineups, so whatever was chosen we just had to relax and go with what we did in practice,” Johnson said. “This is my last year, so I’m just going to go all out. I’m here for my teammates; they’re here for me.”

LBSU head coach Brian Gimmillaro said Johnson was the glue that held the team together and the anchor of its victory.

“It was Janisa tonight,” Gimmillaro said. “She was awesome. She was acrobatic, skilled and her digging was amazing.”

Outside the first set, the only real threat from Davis came late in the third. Facing a 20-12 deficit, the Aggies went on a run that brought the score to 22-19.

The Beach responded by taking three of the next six points to win the set, an effort that was punctuated by two emphatic kills by Johnson.

The Aggies were paced by senior outside hitter Allison Whitson, who finished with a match-high 20 kills to go along with 16 digs on .173 hitting.

Gimmillaro credited his team for the perseverance it showed after dropping the opening set.

“We played hard,” he said. “When you’re playing hard, things don’t always work, so we had to continue [to work hard] to calm down.”

A team looking much more sure of itself took the court at the Walter Pyramid on Saturday night.

LBSU used a balanced attack to control its match with Pacific from start to finish en route to a 25-16, 26-24, 25-18 sweep of the Tigers.

The 49ers picked up its second win in as many nights by capitalizing on mistakes and never letting Pacific (15-3, 3-2 Big West) gain any real momentum.

The Tigers committed 12 service errors and 27 on the attack while The Beach committed just 14 errors total.

Down 23-20 late in the second set, LBSU came out of a timeout firing and scored six of the final seven points to take the set and put its unofficial seal on the contest.

The run was punctuated by tandem block from Johnson and Serna and a solo effort from Johnson that ended the frame.

Serna returned to the starting lineup as well, and she provided The Beach with five kills, two digs and two total blocks on .250 hitting.

Aigner-Sewsey paced the 49er attack with eight kills and 19 digs while hitting at a .318 clip.

The Beach out-hit Pacific .204 to .107 on the night. Roenicke guided the 49er attack with 25 assists to go along with eight digs and two kills on .500 hitting.

After losing both of its matches last weekend, Roenicke said it was important for The Beach to refocus and come back to win two at home.

“Even in practices this week our energy was completely different,” she said. “Our attitude toward playing was different, and this weekend for both matches we came out ready to fight and just go after it.”

Injuries have caused The Beach to experiment with many different lineups, but Roenicke said the team must find ways to make it work no matter who is playing.

“The first game yesterday, we started out really slow,” she said, “It was a different team on the court, but it doesn’t matter, everyone brings energy. We all came together and were really loud and just had each other’s backs. It was good.”

With the recent lineup adjustments, Libby Fontanilla found herself playing libero for the second straight night. The senior picked up 15 digs against Pacific following a career-high 20 on Friday.

“I’m really excited that I have this opportunity now [to play libero],” Fontanilla said. “It’s a big role. I want to go out there and fight and play every point for my team. Libero has to be everywhere, and that’s what I’m going to do, I’m going to be everywhere.”

Anchoring the Tigers was freshman Kat Schulz, who compiled a double-double with a match-high 12 kills and 11 digs.

Gimmillaro credited his team for continuing to persevere through injuries and night-to-night lineup changes.

“We’re working hard,” he said. “We’re making mistakes and our execution is ok, but for the most part we’re playing good defense.”

The Beach returns to action Thursday when it travels to UC Riverside (5-13, 0-5 Big West) at 7 p.m.

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