No. 4 Long Beach fell to No. 8 UCLA in four sets Saturday night in front of 2,821 fans at the Walter Pyramid, ending the Beach’s program-record 45 home-game winning streak.
“I don’t think I’ve ever said anything on the streak to start with so I’m definitely not going to start talking about it now,” Long Beach State head coach Alan Knipe said. “I just don’t care. It’s nice, but it’s just completely irrelevant to our team.”
The 23-25, 25-18, 22-25, 25-23 loss was the first time the Beach (5-1) lost at home since March 26 2016, when it was defeated by, of all teams, the UCLA Bruins.
“It was a little bit of a struggle,” Knipe said. “We struggled with consistency, we struggled with our ability to get to the next point and effort.”
A packed crowd breathed life into the Pyramid with an energetic atmosphere before the match started, and the Beach rode the momentum, leading for most of the first set.
UCLA nearly tied the match at 13-13 after the Beach passed the ball into the net, but a diving one-handed effort from Long Beach freshman libero Mason Briggs kept the rally alive. Sophomore middle blocker Shane Holdaway gave the point to the Beach, blocking an attempted Bruin kill for a 14-12 Long Beach lead, earning a thunderous ovation that shook the air inside the Pyramid.
“The energy was great again tonight and it has been all season,” Knipe said. “It’s been great for years, so that’s a credit to the brand of volleyball we’ve been playing and to the loyal fans we have.”
The Bruins weren’t done fighting, however, and took the set 25-23 with a late three-point streak culminating in a kill off the block by UCLA freshman outside hitter Alex Knight.
“Sometimes you get a little tentative and try not to make a mistake, and that’s the worst thing that can happen,” Knipe said.
Knight and fellow freshman outside hitter Cole Ketrzynski spearheaded the Bruin’s offense. They combined for 14 kills early in the match, helping UCLA to a 9-7 lead in the second set. As the student section’s energy began to dwindle, the Bruins pulled away to 25-18 and took a two-set lead.
The Beach attempted to counter with a more balanced offense. Junior middle blocker Simon Anderson tied with Holdaway to lead the Beach with 11 kills, and junior outside hitter Ethan Siegfried contributed 10 of his own.
The Bruins limited the effectiveness of the Long Beach hitters, however, by winning the battle at the net with 22 blocks compared to the Beach’s four.
“I think we were a little bit slow to adjust to some things,” Anderson said. “We’ve got to be a little bit quicker to pick up the tendency of the game.”
Long Beach redshirt sophomore Spencer Olivier hit over the block midway through the third set, picking the back corner to tie the set 18-18, bringing the student section back to its feet. An ace off the net from Siegfried made it 21-19 and then Long Beach took the set, 25-22.
“I’m really proud of the resilience of the guys to be down in the third and find a way to get back into that thing,” Knipe said.
The Beach got off to a better start in the fourth set. Junior setter Carlos Rivera brought a thunderous roar back to Pyramid, rising for a solo block that gave the Beach a 10-9 lead early in the set. The lead was short-lived, however, as the Bruins closed out the match with a 25-23 set victory.
“UCLA played a great game today and congrats to them, but we’re just going to go back to our training gym and work on the aspects that we need to get better at,” Andersen said.
Long Beach State will travel to Columbus, Ohio for a two-day tournament at Ohio State beginning with a matchup against Penn State Friday, Feb. 7 at 2 p.m.