LOS ANGELES — On a night when four of the eight sets played went to extra time, top-ranked Long Beach State beat Ohio State 25-22, 25-23, 25-27, 32-30 in the first semifinal and then No. 3 UCLA beat No. 2 BYU 25-22, 24-26, 29-27, 25-19.
It sets up a 7 p.m. Eastern (4 p.m. Pacific) Saturday championship match that will be televised by ESPN2. At stake in the NCAA men’s Division I-II title match, formally called the Men’s National Collegiate Volleyball Championship, will be the first title since 2006 for UCLA or the first since 1991 for Long Beach State.
Long Beach State beat UCLA in February in back-to-back matches, both times in four.
Beach wins: Long Beach State (27-1), champion of the Big West, put an end to the four-year stranglehold the MIVA had on the title and ended Ohio State’s season 25-6. The Buckeyes won the last two NCAA titles.
The match ended when Long Beach setter Josh Tuaniga dumped on the Buckeyes, his fifth kill of the match.
“The boys played some nice defense on that play, but they got jumbled up so I didn’t have any big hitters to set to so I decided to just take a chance,” Tuaniga said. “It was kind of a back-and-forth thing in my head, and as it was falling I thought ‘please get down, please get down.”
Tuaniga hit .444, had 42 assists, two of his team’s three aces, four digs and a block. Kyle Ensing led the 49ers with 20 kills, hitting .356. He had the other ace, 10 digs and three blocks. TJ DeFalco added 16 kills, hit .361, and also had 10 digs and three blocks. Nick Amado added five kills and five blocks.
Ohio State’s Jake Hanes led with 21 kills. He had four of the Buckeyes’ 10 aces, six digs and a block. Maxime Hervoir had 17 kills, hit .412, and had 11 digs and three blocks. Nicolas Szerszen had 16 kills, hit .452, and added two aces, 12 digs and a block.
“I have had the opportunity to win two times. That was great. My first year, my freshman year was a little rough and I didn’t perform that well, but we had a great new team and got back together, kind of like Long Beach State did, the last two years,” Szerszen said.
“They’re young and they’ve been able to play together and now they’re good. So you can kind of see my story in Long Beach State’s story, a little bit. It was a great ride. Never regretted anything. Today was one of the biggest fights of the year, if not the biggest. I think we put it all out there. It was awesome. It was awesome and I enjoyed every single bit of it.”
Bruins advance: UCLA is taking full advantage of being the host team as it improved to 19-1 at home this season. The Bruins are 26-7, while BYU’s season ended 22-7.
“It wasn’t a perfect match, but the guys played incredibly hard,” said UCLA coach John Speraw, whose team improved to 2-2 against MPSF rival BYU this season. “They played with such great enthusiasm … We are going to be playing for a national title. I can hardly believe it. We get to do it in our own house against a great team.”
UCLA’s Christian Hessenauer led with 14 kills despite hitting .103. His team hit .336. Hessenauer had an ace, eight digs and seven blocks. Daenan Gyimah had 13 kills and one error in 16 swings to hit .750, three aces, a dig and six blocks. Jake Arnitz had 10 kills, eight digs and two blocks. And setter Micah Ma’a had six kills with no errors to hit .750, 38 assists, an ace, eight digs and two blocks.
“It’s pretty incredible,” Arnitz said. “I think it’s a huge advantage to just be able to sleep in our own beds. It almost feels like it’s just any other game and it’s not the playoffs or anything. So it’s just nice. And then of course the crowd. I think that helps a lot. Saturday will be interesting with Long Beach because they bring a good crowd being right down the freeway.
“I think it will be split pretty evenly, but we play in this gym a lot and we’re pretty comfortable in here. So yeah, it’s an amazing feeling to be able to play my last collegiate volleyball game at UCLA no matter what. It’s pretty special.”
Gabi Garcia Fernandez capped a tremendous freshman season with 19 kills for BYU while hitting .366. He had nine digs and a block. Storm Fa’agata-Tufuga had 11 kills, hit .350, and had five digs. Brenden Sander had 10 kills, three digs and three blocks.
The Cougars hit .320 but had zero serving aces and 25 errors.