The No. 11 Long Beach State volleyball team dropped its first set before winning its next three to top No. 9 UCLA 4-1 Wednesday night at the Walter Pyramid.
The 49ers (7-3 overall, 1-3 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) rallied back for a nail-biting finale as junior outside hitter Cody Martin sealed the 49er win with a solo block to take the match. Player of the game junior John La Rusch led the way with 38 kills, two blocks, nine digs and one service ace.
“We need to worry about our side of the net and less about what they’re doing,” head coach Alan Knipe said. “We have to be cleaner and work on finishing plays.
The 49ers trailed the Bruins (5-4, 1-4) for the majority of the first set, but came back strong in the second with back-to-back kills from Martin and sophomore middle blocker Bryce Yould.
After taking a five point lead in the fourth set, the Bruins came back to tie it up at 23. A service error from the Bruins made it match point for the 49ers. A long rally ended with Martin’s block and the win for LBSU. Martin finished the night with 13 kills, two in the final set and two service aces.
For most of the match, LBSU worked on figuring out the identity of the Bruins. With three new starters for the Bruins, the 49ers had to work on containing freshman outside hitter Jake Arnitz. LBSU’s lone returning starter, junior middle blocker Taylor Gregory, ended the night with eight kills and 5 blocks.
It was all about teamwork for LBSU and playing clean for the entire match. Most of the night, the 49ers went back and forth, trading points with the Bruins. Late in the second set, the 49ers made it to set point with 24-18 lead before winning the match on a Bruin service error.
“We rely on each other on the court,” La Rusche said. “We were a little anxious out there and just needed to slow it down.”
Knipe said that instead of focusing on match-to-match training, the team worked on the same things every practice. The 49ers watched video from the previous match to find any areas of improvements they need to make as well as studying video of their upcoming opponents.
The 49ers will match up against UC Santa Barbara in a non-conference game Friday in the Walter Pyramid.