Women’s volleyball win opener at The Pyramid but remain inconsistent
By Matthew Gozzip Athletics Editor
After a long week away from home, the Long Beach State women’s volleyball team (2-2) defeated the California Golden Bears 3-1 in a game that highlighted many of the Beach’s deficiencies to so far this season.
Senior outside hitter Nele Barber recorded a spectacular line with a match-high 16 kills, 11 digs and four blocks, her third double-double this season. Junior middle back Ashley Murray took the Beach out of an early slump (14 kills) to lead star studded rotation in the center with sophomore Peyton Grahovac (11) and freshman Eri Xue (10). Xue hit .471 to lead the way for LBSU which hit .324 as a team.
LBSU got off to a slow start in the first set, struggling to set up a strong back line against an efficient Cal front. The Golden Bears stormed to a 2-9 due to the Beach’s lack of synchronization in switching from offensive to defensive sets.
Murray swung the momentum by scoring a couple quick points to shorten the gap and the rest of the team followed suit. Xue continued her efficient hitting start to the season while redshirt sophomore Anete Brinke (12 kills, 9 digs, 2 blocks) rallied the defense together to bring the score to 20-21.
The early climb ended up being too much for the Beach as they were unable to clinch the set, 24-26. LBSU dropped a point in a pivotal late rally that saw both teams exchanging hits at a furious pace.
The Beach controlled the second set with a focus on fortifying the defense. Freshman libero Hailey Hayward (19 digs) steadied the ship early during a Cal attack and LBSU’s offense capitalized, leading to a breezy 25-17 victory.
The third set was a match of wits. After 18 ties and 10 lead changes, the Beach sealed the set in a tough tiebreaker, 28-26. Barber continued where she left off while Murray essentially saved the team by recording three straight kills to keep the set within reach for the Beach.
In the fourth set, The Beach jumped to a quick lead and ultimately were able to take the set, 25-23, despite further pressure from Cal.
Though it was technically a win for The Beach, head coach Brian Gimmillaro did not like what he saw. “We did not play a very good match,” Gimmillaro said after the game.
“In any sport, you have to win when you’re not playing well..If you play well and win that’s one thing, but if you’re not playing well, you still have to win.”
An even record seems like a reasonable start for the season for most team but for the Long Beach State women’s volleyball team much more is usually expected from a storied program.
In the first four games of the season, the Beach’s starts have been erratic. In their second game, LBSU commanded from the get go and swept Texas Tech. However, the Beach dropped the first two sets in their opening match against Portland State and were swept in their third game against Colorado.
Friday’s game against Cal could have easily been a loss after the first set loss. They should want to start quickly every set since playing from behind is not an ideal situation. Clearly the Beach can play at a very high level but besides the result of one match, have not continually played their best for multiple matches.
Barber and Murray are the only upperclasswomen, so lack of experience may play a role in the early disconnect.
]Xue and Hayward have only played four collegiate games so adjusting to the pace of play and positioning themselves in optimal places may take longer than expected.
This team certainly is talented and can beat most teams if they play to their potential. The “if” is the biggest factor, the toughest opponent that LBSU will face all season.