UC Irvine has figured out how to win a fifth game – and in the process pulled off the biggest upset of the season.
UC Irvine rallied from a two-game deficit and overcame a three-point deficit midway through the fifth game to beat No. 2/1 Long Beach State 19-25, 23-25, 25-17, 25-22, 15-12 on Thursday in Irvine, California.
The Anteaters (7-8, 1-0 Big West) in the first two months of the season were winless in four fifth games, including three losses to nationally ranked teams. This was the second consecutive fifth-game win for UC Irvine as it defeated Concordia-Irvine during the weekend to end its fifth-game losing streak.
Long Beach State (10-3, 0-1 Big West) out-hit UC Irvine .269 to .268, but was limited to a match-worst zero attack percentage in the decisive game.
Outside attacker Cole Gillis finished with a match-high 18 kills on a .364 attack percentage with three kills coming in the fifth game. Gillis’ first kill of that game jump started a 4-1 run to help the Anteaters tie the game at 9-9 and then later in the game capped off the offensive performance with the match-winning kill.
Gills was one of three Anteaters to have double-digit kills as UC Irvine ended a 12-match losing streak to Long Beach State that dated back to 2016.
Freshman outside attacker Hilir Henno had 17 kills on a .364 attack percentage, while outside attacker Francesco Sani added 13 kills.
UC Irvine in the victory had a season-high 12 aces – seven more aces than Long Beach State. Henno led all players with six aces, including two aces as part of a 6-0 run early in the fourth game to help force a fifth game.
Long Beach State outside attackers Spencer Olivier and Alex Nikolov each had a match-high 18 kills and hit more than .300 against UC Irvine. Nikolov, though, committed four of the Beach’s six attack errors in the fifth game.
Long Beach State despite the loss out-blocked UC Irvine 12 to 8 with middle attacker Grant Marocchi having a match-high six blocks.
All three of Long Beach State’s losses this season have been in fifth games.
This was the opener of a home-and-home conference series between the two teams. Long Beach State will play host to UC Irvine on Friday to conclude the series.