UCLA had this match in hand...until they committed four consecutive service errors late in set four.
But, before we discuss how the Bruins lost, let’s begin at the beginning.
Long Beach State came out and scored the first two points of set one. UCLA wasn’t able to overcome that. Sure, the Bruins kept it close for a little while. UCLA trailed by only one point at 6-5, but the 49ers just rolled after that and won the first set, 25-19.
The Niners started set two strong as well and they jumped out to a 7-4 lead. But, the Bruins went on a 3-0 run to tie the set up 7-7. It stayed close and soon the teams were tied 16-16. UCLA seemed to break through with consecutive points that gave the Bruins an 18-16 lead. They even increased their lead to three at 21-18. Long Beach State went on a 4-1 run, though, to tie it back up at 22-22. UCLA was able to close out the set by winning three of the last four points to win 25-23.
Long Beach State started the third set strong as well by taking a 6-3 lead. UCLA came back with their best run of the match to this point and scored four straight to take a 7-6 lead. The 49ers responded with a 6-2 run of their own to retake the lead, 12-9. A 7-2 Bruin run allowed UCLA to retake the lead, 16-14, but Long Beach State responded with a 3-0 run of their own as the lead changed hands again, 17-16. A bad set by LBSU’s Ethan Siegfried allowed UCLA to tie it up again. That set gave UCLA a side out and sent Dylan Missry back to serve for the Bruins. From that bad set, UCLA went on a 6-0 run to take a 22-17 lead. After a 3-0 run by Long Beach State, UCLA closed out set three with a 3-0 run of their own to win the third set, 25-22, and take a 2-1 lead in the match.
As the fourth set began, UCLA appeared to have things in hand. They kept Long Beach State from scoring consecutive points while doing so themselves four different times as UCLA took an 11-6 lead. That lead was big enough to withstand a 4-1 run by the 49ers as UCLA still led 12-10. The teams traded consecutive points and it was 14-12, Bruins. UCLA took three of the next four points to move ahead 17-13 and it looked like NC #116 was coming to Westwood.
And, then, the Bruin offense collapsed. UCLA gave the 49ers four points on four consecutive service errors as Long Beach State closed out set four by winning 13 of the final 20 points to steal a 26-24 set win to force a fifth and deciding set.
In the fifth set, the Bruins led for most of the early part of the set and they led as late as 9-8. But, Long Beach went on a 4-0 run that started with a kill by Kyle Ensing and was followed by three UCLA attack errors, giving the 49ers a 12-9 lead. UCLA scored the next two points to close the gap to just one at 12-11, but another UCLA service error made it 13-11 and the Bruins couldn’t come back from that as Long Beach State won the set 15-12 to win their program’s second national championship.
This loss is a tough one to swallow because it looked like the Bruins had the title in hand, but, in the end, Long Beach State proved why they were the number one team in the country all season long.
Here’s hoping that UCLA remembers that you can’t give away points with four consecutive service errors late in the fourth set and expect to be able to win that set.
Ultimately, Long Beach State was the better team and they won the national championship because of it.