IRVINE — The Long Beach State women’s volleyball team spread the offense Friday night, sweeping the UC Irvine Anteaters, 25-16, 25-14, 26-24 in the Black-and-Blue Rivalry at the Bren Events Center in Irvine.
“We concentrated on our side of the court,” head coach Joy McKienzie-Fuerbringer said.
Although currently in fifth place in the Big West, Long Beach (9-15, 6-6 Big West) is on an upswing, winning four of its last six games. Ninth-place Irvine (4-19, 1-10 Big West) has now lost seven straight games since upsetting then-No.11 Hawaii.
The opening set was characterized by short rallies. A left-side block from freshman outside hitter Katie Kennedy gave Long Beach a 9-8 lead starting a 6-1 run capped by an ace from sophomore libero Carly Hill.
Kennedy, sophomore middle blocker Erin McFarland, and senior middle blocker YiZhi Xue patrolled the net for the Beach, each recording a match-high three block-assists. Xue added a solo block to lead all players with four total blocks.
“Our defense had some good digs and I think that had to do with the set up on our blocks,” Kennedy said.
Long Beach sophomore outside hitter Kashauna Williams took control in the latter half of the frame, racking up six kills and a block as the Beach took the first set, 25-16.
The Anteaters defense shaded towards Williams’ side of the floor to start the second set, opening up lanes for other Long Beach hitters. Sophomore outside hitter Amanda Henderson took advantage, pummeling the 10-foot line for the first two points of the set.
Kennedy, Williams, and Henderson all recorded at least 10 kills in the match.
“Every player is getting better,” McKienzie-Fuerbringer said. “That’s making the whole group better.
When Irvine shifted its defense to account for Henderson, Williams punished them, blasting a cross-court kill giving the Beach a 9-2 lead and forcing an Irvine timeout. The Beach’s offensive depth left Irvine scrambling for the entire set as the Beach took the frame, 25-14.
“We have options if somebody gets in trouble,” McKienzie-Fuerbringer said.
Williams racked up her match-high 17 kills with remarkable efficiency, tallying a .448 hitting percentage.
“I just tried to be on time with the ball,” Williams said. “So I could see the court instead of just swinging away.”
The Beach’s dominance silenced the Irvine home crowd, as some fans began heading for the exits at the close of the second set.
Irvine jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the third set, rekindling some cheers of encouragement from the crowd. Williams silenced them, peppering three kills to tie the set, 4-4.
“[Irvine] came out with a little bit more fire in the third and I thought our team responded well,” McKienzie-Fuerbringer said.
Irvine finally tied again at 24-24, but Xue gave match point back to the Beach, rising from the middle and spiking a kill onto the 10-foot line. She combined with sophomore setter Carly Aigner-Swesey for a block on the next point, completing the sweep.
“We have a little bit more depth and we’re carrying out a better game plan, so I like that going into our next matches,” McKienzie-Fuerbringer said.
The Beach will continue their road trip at Fullerton Saturday Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. at the Titan Gym.