PALO ALTO, Calif. Â Despite a match-high 23 kills by senior outside hitter Julie Rubenstein, which was nearly twice as many as anyone else on the floor, the #23 Pepperdine women’s volleyball suffered a four-set defeat to #24 Long Beach State in the NCAA Tournament’s first round at Maples Pavilion.
With the 25-18, 23-25, 15-25, 18-25 loss, the Waves concluded their season with a 20-8 record. The 49ers improved to 26-5 and move on to Saturday’s second round.
Rubenstein (Camarillo, Calif./Oaks Christian HS) also had eight digs and hit .378 (23-6-45). She ended her stellar career with 1,743 kills, third all-time at Pepperdine.
Junior outside hitter Rachel Lumsden (Brea, Calif./Brea Olinda HS) had 12 kills and 12 digs, junior setter Kiah Fiers (Palos Verdes Estates, Calif./Peninsula HS) had 52 assists and 12 digs and freshman libero Stevi Robinson (Hermosa Beach, Calif./Mira Costa HS) posted a match-high 21 digs.
“Long Beach played really well,” Pepperdine Coach Nina Matthies said. “They picked up their game and did a good job adjusting to us in the third and fourth sets. It started off as a good volleyball match, but it’s a tough way to end the season. We fought for the first couple of games but then got outmuscled.”
The 49ers finished with advantages in hitting (.278 to .253) and blocks (15.5 to 4.0), plus 13 Pepperdine service errors aided their cause.
The Waves got the match off to an exceptional start, as Lumsden put down three kills and Rubenstein had a service ace as part of a 4-0 run that made the score 7-3. The Pepperdine lead would grow to 9-4 and 11-5. Still with a 12-9 lead, the Waves went on an 8-2 run that featured three Rubenstein kills to make the score 20-11. The 49ers would score four straight points to pull within 21-16, but Pepperdine rebounded with three consecutive kills and eventually closed out the set on a kill by senior middle blocker Cassi Chamberlain (Lakewood, Calif./Lakewood HS). Rubenstein had seven kills in the first set as the Waves had a .359 to .154 edge in hitting.
The pivotal second set featured 17 ties and three lead changes. The final tie was at 23-23, but after a Long Beach State timeout, the 49ers evened up the match after a kill by Caitlin Ledoux and a block by Naomi Washington and Nicole Vargas. The set was close throughout, with neither team ever leading by more than two points. Hitting was extremely good for both sides, with the Waves holding a .457.-436 edge.
With momentum in Long Beach State’s favor, the 49ers took control of the third set from the outset, as they scored the first three points and steadily grew their lead from there. At 20-15, the 49ers scored the final five points of the set. Pepperdine’s hitting dipped to .061 as a result of five LBSU blocks, while the 49ers hit .267.
The fourth set had a similar outcome. It was tied 4-4, but the 49ers began picking up points on their serve and went up 6-4, 8-5, 12-7 and 17-10. It was a four-point deficit at 21-17, but Long Beach State scored four of the match’s final five points and clinched it on a Pepperdine service error. LBSU had a .250-.140 hitting edge in the fourth set.
Pepperdine was making its 20th NCAA Tournament appearance, including the fourth consecutive for seniors Rubenstein, Chamberlain and Caitlin Lawson. Unfortunately, the Waves were beaten in the first round for the third straight season. The Waves also lost to the 49ers in the first round in 2006.