UC Irvine Falls Just Short in MPSF Semifinal

Kyle Russell led UCI with 17 kills in the MPSF Tournament 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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