Long Beach State rallies in NCAA semifinals to beat UCLA in fifth game OT

Photo courtesy of UCLA athletics

Simon Torwie arrived at Long Beach State two years ago as a highly touted internationally recruit who was the top offensive player for Germany at the FIVB Boys’ U19 World Championship.

It’s been a struggle for Towrie to get playing time this season with the Beach’s depth at pin-hitter. The 6-foot-10 opposite has been a serving specialist and even spent time at middle attacker in the regular season.

However, Torwie in the fight-game overtime delivered one of the most iconic moments in the storied history of Long Beach State men’s volleyball.

Torwie had the match-winning ace to end the two-point overtime session as the No. 1 Long Beach State completed the two-game comeback to beat UCLA 18-25, 18-25, 25-15, 25-10, 16-14 in the NCAA Tournament semifinals on Thursday in Los Angeles.

Long Beach State rallied from a two-point deficit midway through the fifth game to tie the game. In addition, the Beach trailed 13-12 before going on a 5-1 run to close out the match that featured two kills from outside attacker Alex Nikolov and the Torwie ace.

Torwie coming off the bench as a serving specialist finished with a game-high four aces, while Nikolov had three aces, which all came in the final three games of the comeback win.


Long Beach State had no aces and 13 service errors in the first two games but had seven aces and 11 service errors in the final three games.

Nikolov, the National Player of the Year, finished with a match-high 20 kills on a .405 attack percentage, including having two kills on the final four plays of the match.

Setter Aidan Knipe guided the Long Beach State offense to out-hit UCLA .412 to .288. In addition, Knipe played the later portion of the match with an injury and the fifth game had to paused for multiple minutes to clean up the setter’s blood on the court.

Opposite Clarke Godbold in the victory added 11 kills and zero errors on a .688 attack percentage.

Two Bruins finished with double-digit kills against the Beach. Outside attacker Ethan Champlin had 13 kills on a .348 attack percentage, while outside attacker Alex Knight added 10 kills.

The Beach forced the fifth game after a 15-point win in the fourth game – the wide margin of victory in an NCAA Tournament semifinal game since 2008. Long Beach State did not commit an error in the game and hit a match-best .647.

UCLA coach John Speraw following the fourth-game loss pulled his entire team off the court and into the locker room before the start of the fifth game.

Long Beach State facing a two-game deficit opened the third game on a 4-0 and led by as many as 10 points in the win. Towrie and Nikolov each two of the Beach’s four aces in the game and the team hit .591

Champlain had both a game-high two aces and added three kills in UCLA’s seven-point second-game win. In addition, UCLA closed out the match on a 7-3 run that featured two kills form Knight.

Knight had a kill and then a block on back-to-back plays to give UCLA a 15-11 lead in the first game. The Bruins expanded the lead to 22-15 with a 5-1 run that was capped off with a Guy Genis’ second ace of the game en route to the opening-game win.

This was the first meeting between UCLA and Long Beach State in the NCAA Tournament since the Beach defeated the Bruins in the 2019 finals.

Long Beach State will play in the finals on Saturday against the winner of the other semifinal match between Ball State and Hawai’i.

UCLA with this loss continues the national championship drought for the MPSF. The MPSF has not win a NCAA championship since UC Irvine in 2013.