No. 2/1 Long Beach State overpowers No. 4/4 Hawai’i to complete series sweep

Photo courtesy of Long Beach State athletics

A nationally televised audience saw exactly why outside attacker Alex Nikolov is in contention to win the National Player of the Year as a freshman.

Nikolov finished with a match-high 18 kills on a .484 attack percentage as No. 2/1 Long Beach State defeated No. 4/4 Hawai’i 25-23, 25-20, 21-25, 25-19 on Saturday in Long Beach, California, to remain in first place in the Big West.

This was the third consecutive match that Nikolov had at least 15 kills and hit .300. The freshman had a match-high 23 kills in the opening win of the two-match series between the top two teams in the conference standings.

Along with the offensive performance, Nikolov had two aces and defensively added both season-highs 12 digs and five blocks in the series finale.

Nikolov was one of three Beach players in this televised match on ESPNU to have double-digit kills as Long Beach State out-hit Hawai’i .350 to .174. Opposite Clarke Godbold and outside attacker Spencer Olivier each contributed 12 kills to help the Beach (16-3, 5-1 Big West) extend its winning streak to five games.

Long Beach State also out-blocked Hawai’i 15 to 7 with middle attacker Simon Torwie delivering a match-high eight blocks. Torwie, who arrived to Long Beach State last season as an opposite, was inserted into the lineup for the second consecutive match.


Libero Mason Briggs also led all players with 16 digs. The All-American now has double-digit digs in four consecutive matches and had a combined 33 digs in the series against the Rainbow Warriors (18-5, 3-3 Big West).

Hawai’i entered the weekend third in the nation with a .353 attack percentage but was held to its second-lowest attack percentage of the season.

Middle attacker Guilherme Voss led Hawai’i with 11 kills on a .588 attack percentage. However, Voss was one of two Rainbow Warriors starters to end the match with more than .250 attack percentage.

Despite the loss, setter Jakob Thelle finished with a match-high four aces.

Hawai’i opened the fourth game on a 5-0 run that was capped off with an ace from Thelle and a Voss kill. Long Beach State rallied back with a 7-1 run that ended with a Nikolov ace for a 13-11 lead.

Long Beach State had another 8-2 later in the game and finished with a match-best .440 attack percentage to complete the home series sweep.

Thelle and Spyros Chakas each had aces in a three-plan span as part of a 6-1 run in the third game that extended the Rainbow Warriors lead to 16-12. Thelle also had another ace late in the game to help Hawai’i avoid the sweep and force a fourth game.

Towrie midway through the second game had back-to-back aces to give the Beach a multiple-point lead that it would not relinquish. In addition, Godbold led all players with five kills en route to Long Beach State taking a two-game lead.

Long Beach State trailed 23-21 in the opening game, but Towrie had three consecutive blocks to give the Beach the lead and set up a game-point. Nikolov then closed out the 4-0 run with a game-winning ace that landed on the back-right corner of the court.

This is the ninth consecutive home win for Long Beach State against Hawai’i dating back to 2017.