LOS ANGELES – Four years ago, Long Beach won the national championship by defeating UCLA at home in five sets.
Four years later, LBSU dealt another devastating post-season blow to its regional rival in five sets – on the same court in the Pavilion Polly. This time it led to a match for the national championship.
And it has also become fashionable to return.
After losing the first two sets (both 25-18), Long Beach with the best seed returned to win the last three – 25-15, 25-10 and 16-14 – on Thursday night to advance to the title match. where he will try to win his third title in five years on Saturday against rival Hawaii’s Big West Conference (25-5) or No. 2 seeded Ball State (23-3).
“They put pressure on us early, we put pressure on them late – and then it was a race to 15,” said LBSU coach Alan Nayp.
The fifth set, unlike the first two, was over, and neither team held the lead by more than two points. With a score of even 14-14, stellar freshman outside striker Alex Nikolaov made the assassination to set up a match point, and then Simon Torvey’s ace cemented Long Beach’s victory (21-5).
Nicholas, has just become the first freshman to be named National Player of the Year The American Volleyball Coaches Association, has stepped into Long Beach with 20 kills, six throws, three assists, two blocks and a hit percentage of 0.405.
“In the fifth set after a certain point – after seven or eight points – you have to go for it,” said Nikolaev. “You have to count on your training and hit the ball as hard as you can, get high and get points.”
UCLA (22-5) achieved victory in the first set, ahead of LBSU .400 to .176 and never lagging behind after Long Beach recorded the first point. The second set was also the whole Bruins.
But in the third set something turned upside down for Long Beach. He scored four of the first five points and failed to score. The innings have become more aggressive. The killings were more acute.
LBSU led as many as 10 in the third set and closed it with successive assassinations of Nikola and Spencer Olivier. The fourth set consisted of more of the same.
Skipping 2-0 and looking for relegation, Naype told his team to stop worrying about their position in the match and just focus on the presence of each point.
“We needed to be a little more free and unblocked, and constantly trust what we were doing,” Nype told his team.
Olivier, who fought at the start of the match but ended up with nine assassinations – including several important comeback killings – has received a message.
“Right after the second set, we thought, ‘At this point, you need to do or die,'” Olivier said. “We will have to rework them. And the difference for me, at least, was only in raw emotions.
The two programs met on Thursday for the 98th time in a series dating back to 1970, when UCLA beat Long Beach to win the national title – for which LBSU retaliated 48 years later.
Before the semifinals on Thursday, UCLA coach John Spera called Long Beach a rival and pointed to the competition as a sign of the rise of men’s volleyball.
In 2018, when the two teams took 1st and 2nd place and faced each other in a regular season match at the Walter Pyramids, Spera recalled how his wife told him that people choose tickets on the street.
“If you’re looking for tickets to the men’s volleyball match, we’re going in the right direction,” Spera said.
Although the entire season was among the best teams in the country, both UCLA and Long Beach needed extensive applications to participate in the NCAA tournament after failing to win the relevant conference tournaments – although LBSU still managed earn first place and one of two semifinal appearances.
UCLA Pepperdine won in four sets in the quarterfinals on Tuesday night. On Thursday night, the “Bruins” in the semifinals in the Pavilion Polly came out with a perfect score of 11-0.
Ethan Champlin (13 assassinations) and Alex Knight (10 assassinations) went on the attack on UCLA.
“We had a great season,” Spera said. “I am proud of the guys. I am proud of the fifth set. Not easy to be broken. Our energy was not in the best place. We turned everything upside down, played a good fifth set. So I’m proud of them. I am proud of the whole year. “
Naype is looking to lead LBSU to its third championship in five years after titles in a row in 2018 and 2019. The 2020 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, then Hawaii won the title in 2021.
In his 19th year as coach, Nike – the only person to have competed in all three LBSU national titles – played for the 1991 team that brought Long Beach its first championship and began coaching in 2001.
“We’re really excited to play Saturday night,” Naip said. “We will rest, eat and prepare to play for the title.”