UC Irvine Falls Just Short in MPSF Semifinal

Kyle Russell led UCI with 17 kills in the MPSF Tournament semifinal.

PROVO, Utah --- UC Irvine battled back late in the fifth set, but the second-seeded Anteaters fell to No. 3 seed Long Beach, 3-2 (25- 22, 22-25, 20-25, 25-15, 22-20), in a Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament semifinal at Smith Fieldhouse in Provo, Utah, Thursday night.

It is the first time in the MPSF post-season that UCI has lost a five set match (7-1).

UCI (23-7) trailed 14-10 in the fifth, but pulled even at 14-14 on back-to-back blocks by Collin Mehring and Connor Hughes and a kill by Kevin Tillie. Two Long Beach State (24-7) errors gave UCI the 19-18 lead, but UCI committed two consecutive errors to put LBSU back on top 20-19.  A kill by Zack La Cavera tied the set at 20-20 before Long Beach State scored the final two points on Anteater errors, 22-20.  The Anteaters fought off nine match points in the set.

Freshman outside hitter Kyle Russell led UCI with a career-high 17 kills and a career and match-best 14 digs while sophomore opposite Zack La Cavera added 14 kills and five digs.  Collin Mehring recorded 11 kills and seven blocks, and setter Chris Austin had a season-high 56 set assists, seven digs and three total blocks.  

The Anteaters, who saw their six-match winning streak snapped, hit .214 for the match while the 49ers hit .289.  Taylor Crabb led LBSU with 23 kills, 11 digs and seven blocks. Taylor Gregory had a match-high 11 total blocks. The Forty-Niners out-blocked UCI 19-14.

The teams were close in the first set until Long Beach State used a UCI service error and a Taylor Crabb kill to take a 17-14 advantage. The Forty-Niners extended the lead to 22-18 on back-to-back kills by Ian Satterfield and Colten Echave. UCI tried to rally late scoring four straight points on a Kyle Russell kill and ace, a Chris Austin solo block, and a LBSU attack that went wide, to close within 23-22. The set would end with a UCI service and attack error giving Long Beach State the 25-22 win.

The score was tied 5-5 in the second set when a pair of LBSU miscues put UCI ahead 7-5. The Anteaters would extend the lead to 10-7 on a Connor Hughes ace. A Scott Kevorken kill was followed by a pair of Zack La Cavera kills to give the Anteaters the 16-11 lead. Long Beach State went on a 5-1 run which was capped by a Dalton Ammerman kill to narrow the UCI lead to 19-18. A block by Kevorken and Russell stopped the spurt and after a LBSU kill, La Cavera had two more kills to give the Anteaters a 22-19 advantage. A kill by Russell and a Forty-Niner attack that sailed long gave UCI the 25-22 victory.

n the third set, UCI scored three in a row on a LBSU service error, an ace by Kevorken and a block by Collin Mehring and Hughes to take the 8-5 advantage. The Anteaters continued to lead and went up 19-16 on a Russell kill and a Forty-Niner error then another Russell kill, a Forty-Niner attack error and a block by Austin, Mehring and Hughes made it 23-19. A solo block by La Cavera won the set for the Anteaters 25-20.

A Forty-Niner service error, a kill by Russell, a block by Kevorken and a LBSU attack into the net gave UCI a 6-2 start in the fourth set. Long Beach would score five straight, three on blocks to take the 9-7 lead. Three consecutive points by the Forty-Niners gave them a 15-10 cushion. LBSU would out-score UCI, 7-2, including three consecutive blocks to open a 21-12 lead. On the strength of 10 blocks, Long Beach State would win the set 25-15 and force a fifth game.  

This was the fourth meeting between the schools this season, with UCI winning the previous three in the Black & Blue Rivalry Series.

LBSU faces the winner of BYU/UCLA in the MPSF championship match Saturday evening in Provo.

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