Long Beach State players deployed diligently on the baseline to receive trophies they never planned to receive. Tears began to gush from their eyes. Unlike those from Hawaii on the other side of the net, these were not happy.
Back where its rise to the top of the sport began in 2018, Long Beach State’s bid for the third national championship in five years ended Saturday with a sweep from rivals Hawaii, the Big West. The Rainbow Warriors denied the Beach dynasty and repeated themselves as national champions, overwhelming Seeded Long Beach state for the second consecutive match 25-22, 25-21, 25-20.
After not being overwhelmed since 2019, Long Beach State (21-6) finished the year with two defeats in three sets in their last three games. Hawaii also rocked the state of Long Beach in the Big West tournament, winning each set by two points.
It’s been six years since Beach suffered multiple sweeps in the same season as the team established themselves as a national powerhouse. Only three players left from the 2019 team that won Long Beach State’s second consecutive national titlebut with a different cast and the trauma of a pandemic, Beach have remained a league contender this season.
“I was so invigorated in coaching these guys this year for their energy, their commitment, their determination and their commitment to this program and their craft,” Long Beach State coach Alan Knipe She said. “It’s a disappointing loss, it hurts, but I love this group.”
Hawaii and Long Beach State have shared the last four national championships. Long Beach State won in 2018, defeating UCLA at Pauley Pavilion and in 2019, overtaking Hawaii at Walter Pyramid. After COVID-19 canceled the 2020 tournament, Hawaii began their reign, winning the program’s first NCAA championship.
The Rainbow Warriors (27-5) lived up to their billing as the best defensive team in the country on Saturday. Hawaii, which led the nation with 2.89 blocks per set entering the NCAA tournament, had eight blocks, including four in the first set.
The Beach hit .304, well below the seasonal average of .353, and squandered a five-point lead in the second set, giving all the momentum to Hawaii and its vocal fans waving plastic Ti leaves and Hawaiian flags. .
Alex Nikolov, the first freshman to win the National Player of the Year award, led the state of Long Beach with 20 kills out of 37 two-aces serving attempts. Red junior shirt Spencer Oliverwho joined Nikolov on the all-tournament team, had 11 kills and 10 digs.
The last time these teams met in a national league game, Long Beach State delighted its 3,824 home crowd with the program’s second consecutive national title. The stars of that team, including outside batters TJ DeFalco and Kyle Ensing and setter Josh Tuaniga, were among the 5,784 at Pauley Pavilion on Saturday, in hopes that Beach’s reign could continue.
But even that stacked roster that has won consecutive titles has had to wait for its moment. Seniors credited with bringing Long Beach state back to the top lost in the national semi-final in consecutive years before making it through.
This squad, with only one senior and one freshman who is already the best player in the country, could be on a similar path.
“We will come back”, second free Bricklayer Briggs She said.
Briggs, to the American volleyball coaches Assn. first All-American team, called the NCAA tournament the largest stage you can play on as a collegiate men’s volleyball player. Hawaii was able to enjoy the final moments in the spotlight as players fell to the ground to celebrate after Long Beach State was called in for a clear-cut end-point infraction.
The Hawaiian players donned championship hats and shirts, and in the center of their dog stack they raised the championship trophy.
Nikolov, arms draped over the shoulders of his teammates in a tight Long Beach State throng, peeked over his shoulder at the celebration.