Hawaii’s season done after Irvine loss
IRVINE, Calif. » Hawaii's postseason volleyball hopes died last night, quicker than most expected.
It took 109 minutes for No. 2 Long Beach State to upset No. 1 UC Irvine 30-26, 30-20, 30-23 in a Mountain Pacific Sports Federation semifinal last night at the Bren Center. The 49ers rode the arm of sophomore opposite Norm Hutton (22 kills) and tough serving all match to hand the Anteaters their first home loss in 18 matches, as well as halt UCI's school-record winning streak at 21.
With Long Beach State (23-9) and surprising UCLA (23-12) battling it out tomorrow for the MPSF's automatic berth in the final four, the Warriors pretty much know their season is over.
Given the criteria in place for the selection committee, which takes into account consistency over the entire season, UC Irvine will be the choice for the NCAA tournament at-large berth Sunday.
"I don't see how they can give it to anyone else," Anteater coach John Speraw said, his team falling to 27-4. "I think the committee, based on the criteria, is obligated to give it us."
Hawaii associate coach Tino Reyes felt the same way. The Warriors learned of UCI's loss via a friend of senior Alfred Reft who was at the match.
The news came about an hour after what would turn out to be UH's final practice of the year.
"I think we're both deserving, but one of us will stay home," Reyes said in a call from Honolulu. "Saturday's winner will go and, in our minds, our chances ended with Irvine losing.
"We can still hope. We have sent in the paperwork to make a case for us to go. ... But we had an opportunity to control our destiny (in last week's quarterfinal) and didn't. It comes down to Irvine played good when it counted."
There was some speculation from several well-known members of the volleyball community that Hawaii still had a shot at the at-large, based on nonconference wins over Loyola-Chicago, Ohio State and Penn State, as well as finishing a game behind UCI. But given recent at-large selection history, the Anteaters are basically a lock.