Daily 49er

Long Beach State beach volleyball makes waves at the sand courts

No. 6 LBSU improves to 4-0 against CSULA, No. 9 Stetson.

Senior+Kobi+Pekich+digs+out+a+ball+during+a+match+against+Cal+State+Los+Angeles+Tuesday+at+LBSU+Sand+Courts.
Senior Kobi Pekich digs out a ball during a match against Cal State Los Angeles Tuesday at LBSU Sand Courts.

Senior Kobi Pekich digs out a ball during a match against Cal State Los Angeles Tuesday at LBSU Sand Courts.

Stephen Oduntan

Stephen Oduntan

Senior Kobi Pekich digs out a ball during a match against Cal State Los Angeles Tuesday at LBSU Sand Courts.

Luke Ramirez, Assistant Sports Editor

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With the 2017 season underway, Long Beach State beach volleyball stayed undefeated after two wins against Cal State L.A. and Stetson University on Tuesday.

No. 6 LBSU beat CSULA 5-0 in straight sets, then took care of No. 9 Stetson 4-1. The 49ers’ No. 1 team, senior Nele Barber and junior Rachel Nieto, bested Stetson’s 21-9 and 21-19 to seal the match.

“Stetson was our first real challenge this season,” head coach Mike Campbell said. “It was great to see our kids battle and it’s nice to get out to a 4-0 start this year.”

The 49ers jumped to a nice lead after the No. 2 and No. 4 team beat Stetson is straight sets. Senior Kobi Pekich and junior Sasha Karelov made up the No. 2 team and beat Stetson 21-13 and 21-17. Pekich had six aces in the game while Karelov lead the way with a .500 hitting percentage.

“The [No.2] really did an amazing job today,” Campbell said.

In flight four, junior Anete Brinke and freshman Hailey Harward won their game 21-19 and 21-14. Brinke had five blocks and was an imposing presence at the net against the Hatters. Harward hit .558 with 19 kills, several of which reminded fans of the electric kills she made regularly during indoor season in the fall.

With an early 2-0 game lead in the match, Barber and Nieto were prepared to end it right away.

“The goal is always to win our game,” Barber said. “We were able to come out strong after our [No. 2] and [No. 4] set us up and we both felt pretty relaxed.”

LBSU won set one easily with the score 21-9. Barber had three key blocks that kept the momentum with the home side.

“Rachel had some great [sets] and I was able to get a few blocks,” said Barber. “That really helped intimidate the other team.”

The second set proved to be much closer than the first as Stetson battled and kept the lead going back-and-forth between the two teams. Graduate student Maggie Skjelbred and freshman Sunniva Helland-Hansen could not force the match to a third set as LBSU won 21-19.

The 49ers’ No. 1 team sealed the match thanks in part to Nieto hitting .700 in the two sets.

“I always want to hit [100 percent],” Nieto said. “Today was pretty good and I’m happy, but there are some things that I need to work on.”

The No. 1 team was 2-0 on the day and will look to be the anchor of this talented LBSU squad ranked top 10 in the country.

“Nele is the ultimate athlete,” Nieto said. “The two of us together, with her killing it on offense and good defense from me, we have a really good balance.”

LBSU will look to continue its strong performance when they play No. 2 Florida State, No. 7 Georgia State and No. 10 Louisiana State at the UCLA Invitational in Manhattan Beach March 11-12.

“All of our pairs have a chance to win, which is huge,” Campbell said.
LBSU is at home again March 14 against TCU at the sand courts next to the track.

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