The fourth-ranked Long Beach State men’s volleyball team opened up the 2014 season in style as it claimed the 2014 UC Santa Barbara Asics Invitational championship with a 3-1 victory over Harvard in the finals on Saturday at UCSB’s Rob Gym. Set scores were 25-18, 20-25, 25-19, 25-13.
Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the non-conference tournament has become an annual event played during the opening weekend of the college men’s volleyball season and featuring some of the top ranked teams in the country.
After winning the title, the 49ers’ senior outside hitter Dalton Ammerman was named the tournament’s most valuable player, and he was joined on the all-tournament team by senior setter Connor Olbright.
Long Beach State advanced to the championship match after going undefeated in pool play on Friday as it bested UC San Diego, No. 14 Cal State Northridge, Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW) and No. 2 UCLA in best-of-three set exhibition matches.
In the finals against Harvard, seniors Taylor Crabb and Ammerman led the way, combining for 37 kills and 18 digs. Crabb finished with 19 kills on .429 hitting while Ammerman registered 18 kills (.353). The duo also had nine digs and three blocks each.
Freshman Bryce Yould added nine kills (.615), and sophomore Taylor Gregory had eight. Sophomore Andrew Sato totaled a match-high 14 digs.
Olbright directed the offense to a .381 attack percentage with 55 assists. The 49ers also outblocked the Crimson, 12-4.
The 49ers started off strong in set one, taking an early 8-4 lead. The 49ers stayed out front and eventually went up, 17-12, on a Crabb kill. Harvard was able to close the gap to three, but Long Beach went on a 6-3 run to pull ahead 23-17. After the Crimson sided out, Ammerman and Jeff Ornee combined for a block, and Gregory followed with a kill to give the 49ers the 25-18 win.
In the second set, the two teams went back-and-forth with four tie scores before Harvard used a 7-3 spurt to go on top, 11-7. The 49ers then came within two, but the Crimson answered with five straight points to take a 16-9 advantage. Long Beach State sided out with a kill from Yould and proceeded to go on a 5-2 run to make it 18-14. Harvard wouldn’t let the 49ers get any closer, however, holding on for a 25-20 victory.
The 49ers owned an early three-point cushion in the third set, but the Crimson came back to knot it up at 5-5. Long Beach then went on an 8-3 run, capped by an Ammerman kill, to take a 13-8 lead. Harvard eventually cut the deficit to two and stayed within striking distance until Long Beach State reeled off four straight points to go on top, 22-16, eventually closing out the set at 25-19.
The 49ers ran away late in the fourth set for a convincing 25-13 victory. After trailing 6-5, Long Beach State went on an 8-1 run, which ended with a Yould kill to go up 13-7. The two teams then traded points before the 49ers went on to outscore the Crimson, 10-3, down the stretch for the 12-point win.
Long Beach State begins its Mountain Pacific Sports Federation slate on the road this week when it heads to No. 15 Cal Baptist on Thursday (Jan. 9) and No. 3 BYU on Saturday (Jan. 11).