Carly Hill went up to serve Long Beach’s first point against UC Irvine, only for the ball to hit the net. Four sets later, the freshman libero was on the other side of the ball coming from a UC Irvine defender and let it drop nearly a foot away from her to end the game.
Long Beach (10-8, 2-3 Big West) dropped its third match in a row Friday night against UC Irvine 19-25, 25-17, 25-22, 25-22.
The stands were filled with 1,311 fans sporting school apparel for the black and blue rivalry as Long Beach attempted to break its two-game losing streak.
The first and second sets showcased two completely different teams. While the team led in most categories in the first, it lost confidence going into the second set, letting Irvine (9-7, 3-1 Big West) shine defensively, with eight block attempts. A flurry of simple mistakes, miscommunication and passive play resulted in a dropped second set for the 49ers, 25-17.
“I’m not disappointed with the effort of our girls, but I was definitely disappointed with our execution,” head coach Joy McKienzie-Fuerbringer said. “We prepared but we didn’t follow through with our game plan. UCI played a great game but we just had too many unforced errors … For us it was a disappointing loss.”
Junior outside hitter Hailey Harward had an unusually quiet night, sitting out for nearly all of the second set and ending with five kills, three aces and one block.
“This was a really emotional game for me as well, but it’s tough when everyone is on different pages and different wavelengths,” Harward said. “It’s really important to regroup and get everyone back on the same page so we could have done a better job of that.”
Freshman outside hitter Kashauna Williams tried to spark a comeback, leading the 49ers with 15 kills and the second highest hitting percentage of both teams at .471. Her performance ignited the team to keep up with Irvine through tough rallies and three lead changes. It was not enough, and Long Beach dropped the third set 25-22.
“Volleyball is a game of momentum, when the momentum shifts to the other team, good teams respond,” McKienzie-Fuerbringer said. “UCI served really well and got us out of system and they did a good job at that, made us do some things we didn’t want to do.”
Long Beach has a quick turnaround and returns at 7 p.m. Saturday against UC Davis, where it will look to break its three-game losing streak.