With Long Beach State down two points in the fourth set, freshman outside hitter Kashauna Williams blocked the Bruins kill, making it hit the ground into a cluster of UCLA players and onto the sidelines. Long Beach fans cheered, but seconds later a career-high performance from Williams was spoiled, and the Walter Pyramid was filled with booing fans. The referees called the ball out on Long Beach, causing the team to drop the match in a controversial call.
The Long Beach State women’s volleyball team (6-5) put up a fight in their Walter Pyramid return against No. 16 UCLA (5-2), pushing the team to nearly five sets, but ultimately falling 25-21, 17-25, 25-23, 25-23.
The deciding point for the team came late in the fourth set following a 3-0 run from Long Beach. Both teams went up for a block and thought the other touched the ball last.
“Being two points away from a ranked opponent is a very good opportunity for us and our program,” junior outside hitter Hailey Harward said. “So I take that so personally and I take that to heart that we’re really trying to build something amazing here and we have chances and we’re right there. We’ll get them next time.”
The 49ers came out aggressive early on, placing the ball in the corners and empty spaces on the floor where they knew the Bruins would not be able to respond. They played a smart game and had the Bruins scrambling to keep up with the different ball placements behind Harward’s and Williams’ 16 kills each.
“I’m really proud of these girls, the way they executed and played with heart and and stayed steady,” head coach Joy McKienzie-Fuerbringer said. “I’m disappointed about how it ended, but I thought our girls showed great heart and they really made great progress and took big steps.”
UCLA took a breather and came back rejuvenated, vamping up its defense and stopping Long Beach from gaining quick points. Long Beach couldn’t handle the change in pace, and let UCLA get five quick points to drop the first set.
The 49ers came back with more fire in the second, dominating the match 25-17 and forcing the Bruins to react to their game. Williams doubled her kills while senior outside hitter Tyler Spriggs went on a hot streak to enter the double digits column, ending the night with 14 kills.
Set on tying the match, Harward racked up quick points for Long Beach as she finished the night with 16 kills, 14 digs and three aces.
The 49er’s offense was well-rounded, but it wasn’t enough for UCLA’s burst of energy, as it took two sets from Long Beach to end the match, much to the dismay of hundreds of booing fans.
Long Beach has a chance to re-enter the win column at 7 p.m. Friday against Lamar University, then close out at 7 p.m. Saturday against Fresno State, before heading into conference play.
“This was a good test of where we’re at and the girls will be hungry that we’re that close,” McKienzie-Fuerbringer said. “We’re right there and we’re prepared to go into our conference. We’re ready.”