Ran It Back: UCLA beats Long Beach State to repeat as NCAA champions

Photo by Vinnie Lopes

Ethan Champlin in between drills during UCLA’s practice before the NCAA Tournament finals walked around the court picking up loose volleyballs.

By the time the All-American outside attacker was finished, he had about five volleyballs all in his arms and walked the full length of the court to place them in the cart so the team could get ready for the next drill.

No task and no role was too small for Champlin. That had been the case all season long whether it was shagging volleyballs at practice or converting positions at the coaching staff’s request and playing libero for several matches during the regular season.

Champlin did it all during the season. He continued to do it all Saturday but added a new thing to that list – lifting a championship trophy.

Champlin finished with both a match-high 15 kills and six blocks as the No. 1 seed UCLA defeated the No. 2 seed Long Beach State 25-21, 25-20, 27-29, 25-21 on Saturday in Long Beach, California, to repeat as NCAA champions.

The outside attacker was one of three Bruins to have double-digit kills in front of a sold-out crowd of 3,804 people. Outside attacker Cooper Robinson had 12 kills on a .417 attack percentage, while middle attacker Merrick McHenry added 10 kills on a team-best .087 attack percentage.

Opposite Ido David, starting in place for an injured Grant Sloane, added nine kills and a match-high three aces.

Setter Andrew Rowan guided the offense to out-hit Long Beach State .297 to .214.


Champlin in the postmatch news conference credited the play of libero Alex Knight for helping the offense run efficiently against the Beach. Knight led all players with 31 service receptions and did not commit a reception error.

UCLA held Long Beach State to less than a .200 attack percentage for the majority of the match – almost .150 percentage points below the Beach’s season average.

Along with Champlin, four more Bruins had at least four blocks in the victory. McHenry contributed five blocks, and David and middle attacker Guy Genis each had four blocks.

Middle attacker Simon Torwie was the only Long Beach State player to have more than five kills and hit more than .300. Torwie finished with eight kills and zero errors on a .571 attack percentage.

Outside attacker Sotiris Siapanis led Long Beach State with 12 kills but was held to a .161 attack percentage. The All-American was hitting in the negative for part of the match and was pulled midway through the third game before being reinserted for the start of the fourth game.

Opposite Skyler Varga had 11 kills and hit .034 against UCLA. Varga also had back-to-back attack errors to end the match.

UCLA and Long Beach State were tied 20-20 in the fourth game when opposite Zach Rama had a kill to jump start a 5-1 run to end the match. Rama, who had been come off the bench early in the game, had three kills during the run to help the Bruins secure the win.

Long Beach State trailed by one point midway through the third game when coach Alan Knipe opted to insert Nathan Harlan for Siapanis. Harlan on the first point entering the game delivered an ace and three plays later had a kill to complete a 4-1 Long Beach State run.

Clarke Godbold also had a kill to fight off a championship-point and force overtime. Long Beach State was able to gain the advantage early in the overtime on a Varga kill and then converted on its third game-point opportunity with a block from DiAeris McRaven to force a fourth game.

The Bruins opened the second second game a 7-2 run with David having two aces and McHenry adding an ace. UCLA led by as many as seven points and hit .381 while committing two attack errors en route to winning the game and taking a two-game lead.

UCLA limited Long Beach State to a .107 attack percentage in the opening-game win.

Long Beach went on a 5-0 run to erase a three-point deficit early in the first game. Siapanis during the run had three kills, including back-to-back kills to cap off the run and give Long Beach State a 8-6 lead.

The Bruins, though, responded and with the score tied 18-18 went on a 3-0 run to retake the lead. Champlain opened the run with a kill and finished the opener with a game-high five kills.

This was the third consecutive year Long Beach State and UCLA had met in the NCAA Tournament. The Bruins defeated the Beach last season in the semifinals en route to winning their first national championship in 18 years.

UCLA with this victory now have a record 21 NCAA championships in program history.