Long Beach storms past Belmont Abbey to advance to NCAA semifinals

Photo by Vinnie Lopes

Skyler Varga stood at the service line midway through the second game being serenaded with chants “O Canada” from the Long Beach State student section.

The sophomore opposite from Canada looking poised in their NCAA Tournament debut effortless tossed the ball in the air and delivered a jump serve ace against Belmont Abbey.

It was just that type of night for Varga.

Varga finished with 10 kills on a .400 attack percentage and had a match-high two aces as the No. 2 seed Long Beach State swept the No. 7 seed Belmont Abbey 25-18, 25-14, 25-11 in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals on Tuesday in Long Beach, California.

Long Beach State out-hit the ConfCarolinas champions .447 to .129, including having a match-best .636 attack percentage and no errors in the third game. The Beach also had three players finish with double-digit kills.


Along with Varga, outside attacker Sotiris Siapanis had a match-high 11 kills on a .625 attack percentage. Outside attacker Nathan Harland getting the start over Clarke Godbold contributed 10 kills.

Outside attacker Zach Puentes in the loss had a team-high 11 kills and was one of two Crusaders to have more than five kills.

Despite the loss, Belmont Abbey finished with five blocks – two more blocks than Long Beach State. Middle attacker Jibriel Elhaddad led all players with three blocks.

Freshman setter Joseph Morris guided the Belmont Abbey offense in the opening game to a .333 attack percentage. The Crusaders, though, hit less than .200 in each of the final two games.

Long Beach State opened the third game on an 8-2 run with five points coming from Belmont Abbey attack errors. The Beach limited the Crusaders to a negative-.065 attack percentage in the final game to secure the sweep and remain undefeated in program history against ConfCarolinas teams.

Long Beach State and Belmont Abbey were tied at 5-5 in the second game before the Beach went on a 12-2 run. Harlan during the run had five kills, including kills on three consecutive plays.

Both Varga and Sotiris in the opening game win led all players with five kills. The two players each had two kills as part of a 5-0 run that erased an early 5-3 deficit and gave the Beach a lead it would not relinquish.

Long Beach State with this victory will advance to the NCAA Tournament semifinals. The Beach will play the winner of the quarterfinals match between the No. 3 seed Grand Canyon and the No. 6 seed Ohio State.

This is the third consecutive year the Beach has advanced to the semifinals and the seventh time in the last eight seasons.