Sports, Women's Sports, Women's Volleyball

LBSU evens season series with Titans

After falling to Cal State Fullerton earlier in the season for the first time in 30 years, the Long Beach State women’s volleyball team started a new streak from scratch Thursday night at the Walter Pyramid.

The Beach (14-11, 9-5 Big West Conference) defeated the Titans (13-13, 7-6 Big West) in four sets – 25-19, 25-27, 25-21, 25-20-to claim its third straight win. Fullerton has never won at the Pyramid, which opened in 1994.

Outside of a highly-contested second frame, the 49ers were able to find ways to close out sets and hold off every Titan run.

Tara Roenicke led the 49er attack with the first LBSU triple-double since 2010, when setter Ashley Lee notched a quadruple-double.

The junior setter compiled a career-high 11 kills to go along with 43 assists and 14 digs on .360 hitting.

“[Roenicke] is really great at scoring,” LBSU head coach Brian Gimmillaro said. “She just knows how to score. The better our offense is, the more their defense is looking at our other hitters.”

Roenicke said maintaining focus was the key to the team holding on for the win after splitting the first two sets.

“We all came into the match saying ‘we have to get this win,'” she said. “It was just a matter of how much fight we put into it.”

The setter, who has been nursing a sprained ankle for nearly four weeks, added that despite an array of injuries and setbacks throughout the season, the team has been able to refocus and find ways to win.

“We’ve gotten so much closer, and we have each other’s backs now,” she said.

Reigning Big West Player of the Week Janisa Johnson added a double-double for the Beach with 16 kills and 16 digs on .178 hitting. The senior outside hitter’s ability to score and solid defensive play from the back row were praised by Gimmillaro as two of the keys to the victory.

“Janisa can hit as good a ball as any player in the country,” he said. “She is one of the best overall players, no doubt about it.”

Sophomore middle blocker Chisom Okpala delivered 17 kills for the ‘Niners while hitting at a .314 clip.

The Titans were paced by senior outside hitter Kayla Neto, who tallied a match-high 25 kills to go along with 11 digs on .200 hitting. In the fourth set, she notched the 1,535th kill of her career, becoming Fullerton’s all-time leader.

LBSU returns to action Saturday night when its hosts UC Riverside (7-20, 1-12 Big West) at 7:30 p.m.

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