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UCI Men’s Volleyball Upsets Rival Long Beach State in Big West Semifinal, 3-0

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The UCI Men’s Volleyball team (18-11, 6-4) were victorious against rival Long Beach State University (20-4, 9-1), sending them home in a 3-0 blowout in the Big West Men’s Volleyball semifinal game, hosted at the Bren Events Center on Friday, April 21.

Among the star players that helped edge out victory against the Beach were sophomore outside hitter Hilir Henno with 22 kills and redshirt junior setter Joe Karlous with 26 assists. 

UCI drew first blood in the first set with a kill by Henno, only for both volleyball squads to go back and forth throughout the majority of the first set. That is, until three crucial points for the Anteaters — an ace by Henno, an LBSU service error and a bad set by the Beach — cemented the lead.

The Beach didn’t go down without giving it their all, Fighting back with an impressively well-placed kill by LBSU sophomore outside hitter Sotiris Siapanis, a UCI service error and a few more kills. Despite their efforts, UCI maintained their lead and ultimately won the first set, 25-21.

A Beach service error and a kill by junior outside hitter Francesco Sani granted UCI the first lead of the second set. Indeed, UCI kept a tight grip on their lead for the entire duration of the second set, hitting an impressive 0.343 as a team (16-4-35) in contrast to Long Beach’s .000 hitting average (6-6-34). 

At the same time, the Beach were still making a good name for themselves out on the court, making a spectacular kill (7-4) and a triple block play by junior outside/opposite Nathan Harlan, junior opposite Simon Torwie and junior outside hitter Clarke Godbold. Regardless, UCI went on to win the second set with a sizable lead of 25-17. 

In the third and final set of the match, UCI again took the lead off an attack error by the Beach. Both volleyball squads were evenly matched against each other throughout the first half of the third set, trading kills and leads. By the midpoint the Anteaters picked up a triad of kills to gain a 15-12 lead against the Beach.

These kills proved to be a pivotal moment in the game, from which the Beach ultimately could not recover.

The Anteaters kept their momentum flowing all the way to the end of the third set, while the Beach were able to hang on by a thread with a few UCI attack errors and two kills at the end. Henno delivered the final kill into the Beach’s territory to win the game and send his team to the big Big West Championship Game the next day on home territory.

Unfortunately, the Anteaters were not able to get the job done and ultimately were eliminated by the University of Hawai’i at Manoa on April 22. The University of Hawaii Men’s Volleyball squad now move on to the national stage in the NCAA bracket, and will go up against Penn State in the semifinals on May 4.

Phillip Lemus is a Sports Apprentice for the spring 2023 quarter. They can be reached at plemus1@uci.edu.