The Beach played against a very talented Hawai’i team Saturday evening in front of an electric crowd at the Walter Pyramid in a game that would evidently be the last women’s volleyball home game of the year.
Graduate seniors Katie Kennedy and Tia Chavira felt the emotions coming into the game as win or lose it would be both of their last games at The Walter Pyramid.
“It’s been a great journey the last five years and I wouldn’t have wanted to do it with anyone else, this group is very special […] just feeling a lot of gratitude today,” Kennedy said.
“I’m so thankful for this journey and this tournament that we got to experience in our last year and just the community that is showing up,” Chavira said.
Even with The Beach’s home-court advantage, the Rainbow Warriors’ fans came out in masses, packing out the Pyramid. The intense game began with both teams scoring back and forth, resulting in eight ties and two lead changes.
Nearing the end of the first set, The Beach tied the game at 24 but a service error from Chavira gave the lead back to Hawai’i.
The Rainbow Warriors would win that set 26-24, turning the tide in favor of Hawai’i.
“We had a good gameplan and we did a pretty good job of it in the first set and we were really close in executing in a few plays,” head coach Tyler Hildebrand said. “We just didn’t quite get the right touch or the block or missed a couple of digs.”
The Beach came out strong to begin the second set but the game got away from them at the halfway point in the set as the Rainbow Warriors went on a 9-1 run, ending the second set on fore and leaving Long Beach State looking for answers.
“In the first two sets, we’re playing a lot better volleyball even though we’re trailing, it’s just a couple of points here and there,” Hildebrand said. “They did what we thought they were going to do on offense.”
Hawai’i head coach Robyn Ah-Mow said that her team practiced serve passing for hours to prepare for The Beach. Their game plan coming in was to serve tough, get The Beach out of the system and stay disciplined and tight on the blocks. “They did exactly what the game plan was,” Ah-Mow said.
Long Beach State would struggle to come back during the third set as the Rainbow Warriors led the whole way and had a 67% scoring percentage to Long Beach State’s 8.3%.
Senior middle blocker Amber Igiede took over the game for the Rainbow Warriors with her 16 kills and five blocks and took home the Big West tournament Most Valuable Player award. “Amber is a national team player and she showed it the last two times,” Hildebrand said.
“They just came and played when they needed to, all the losses that we had, it’s just learning lessons for them to build throughout the season,” Ah-Mow said. “They came out in this tournament and played their hearts out so good job ladies.”
With the victory today, Hawai’i became one of 32 teams that are in the automatic qualifiers for the NCAA women’s volleyball tournament. However, the season might not be over for The Beach as they wait today at 3 p.m. for the Selection Show to see if they have done enough to punch their ticket to the NCAA postseason.
“We have strong cases in a number of areas […] in particular our strength of schedule and our losses with some injuries and our wins,” Hildebrand said. “I think we have a strong case but it’s up to the committee.”