Star-Bulletin Sports

Saturday, December 11, 1999

N C A A _ V O L L E Y B A L L

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Long Beach State players celebrate after defeating Texas A&M
to win the NCAA Mountain Regional last night.

Beach Ball returns

Defending champion Long Beach
State is back in the final four
of the NCAA Championship

By Cindy Luis


Brian Gimmillaro has always felt at home in Hawaii.

It's where he won his first NCAA women's volleyball championship in 1989.

It's where he and his Long Beach State team will spend the next week, preparing to defend their national title.

The 49ers have already begun to acclimate. Last night, the Beach looked very comfortable on the Stan Sheriff Center court, disposing of No. 13 Texas A&M, 15-4, 15-7, 15-13, in 110 minutes in the Mountain Regional final.

The victory put the sixth-ranked 49ers into the final four for the third consecutive year, and seventh in 11 seasons. Long Beach State (31-3) will take on No. 2 Stanford (32-2) in one of the NCAA Championship Tournament semifinals next Thursday at the Sheriff Center.

Last night, the Cardinal earned a trip back to Honolulu with a 15-12, 15-6, 15-10 victory over UC Santa Barbara. Top-ranked Penn State (36-1) also advanced last night by sweeping UCLA, 15-11, 15-9, 15-5, The Nittany Lions await the winner of tonight's match between No. 4 Florida (35-2) and No. 5 Pacific (33-2).

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Veronica Walls, left, and Keri Nishimoto of Long Beach State
celebrate a point during Game 2 against Texas A&M.

"One of the hardest things to do in sports is to defend a championship,'' said Gimmillaro after the 49ers won their ninth straight. "There were so many people who thought we wouldn't go back to the final four this year, that we had lost too much (including two-time Player of the Year Misty May).

"It's even sweeter when you do something you're not supposed to do. I'm very happy that we'll be here in Hawaii, with all the great, knowledgeable fans. It's the perfect place for the final four.''

With the Wahine eliminated Thursday, about 3,700 fans apparently decided to get in some early Christmas shopping last night. Only 2,757 showed up to see the 49ers overwhelm the tired Aggies.

"We just didn't have enough left to do it again against another great team,'' said A&M coach Laurie Corbelli. "We left most of it out on the floor (Thursday). We gave every ounce we had.''

The result was that Aggieland-Far West once more became a Beach city.

The A&M defense that had demoralized Hawaii on Thursday was a step slow, the Aggies' block that stuffed the Wahine like a Christmas stocking came up short against the 49ers.

It was Long Beach that applied the early pressure with aggressive serving, using two aces to jump out to a 13-3 lead. Forty minutes later, the 49ers led the match 2-0.

It was unfamiliar territory for the Aggies, down 0-2 for just the second time this season. At home on Nov.10, A&M was able to regroup and pull out a five-set win against Baylor.

Not last night. Not with all six 49er starters in double-dig figures to thwart an Aggie comeback and an extended stay in Hawaii just 15 points away.

A&M's 12th Man did gain a few thousand bodies when trying to rally in Game 3. Corbelli subbed junior setter Claire Harvey for all-conference selection Jenna Moscovic "just to change something,'' said the coach.

The Aggies responded by taking an 11-5 lead and appeared poised to push the 49ers to a fourth game for just the 12th time this season. But Long Beach senior Brandi Barratt put down two of her team-high 17 kills and came up with two blocks during a 9-0 run that gave the 49ers match point.

A&M held off one aloha ball, closing to 14-13 on a 49er error and Amber Woolsey's solo block of the regional tournament MVP Cheryl Weaver. But a kill by All-American candidate Anja Grabovac gave the serve back to The Beach and senior Kristy Kierulff, normally a back-row player, ended it with her fourth kill of the night.

"I'm not surprised we're in the final four,'' said Weaver, a sophomore who was heavily recruited by Hawaii. "I'm excited that we're here and we've worked very hard to get here.''

"Last year's team was supposed to win it and they dominated,'' Gimmillaro said of his 1998 team that went 36-0. "This year, we'll have to face some very good teams who are playing well in order to win again. We finished the '80s with a title here. It would nice to end the '90s the same way.''

Long Beach State def. Texas A&M,
15-4, 15-7, 15-13

Aggies (28-6)

		g	k	e	att	pct.	bs	ba	d
Howes		3	17	4	43	.302	0	0	18
Strickland	3	13	7	33	.182	0	1	19
Woolsey		3	11	1	28	.357	1	4	5
Leahy		2	1	3	8	-.250	0	0	1
Cole		3	14	4	49	.204	0	1	9
Moscovic	3	0	2	6	-.333	0	2	8
McWhirter	3	4	1	15	.200	0	0	13
Clark		3	0	0	0	.000	0	0	5
Harvey		1	2	1	4	.250	0	0	6
	Totals	3	62	23	186	.210	1	8	84
49ers (31-3)

		g	k	e	att	pct.	bs	ba	d
Kierulff	3	4	0	5	.800	0	0	17
Grabovac	3	8	2	32	.188	0	1	13
Nishimoto	3	4	0	8	.500	0	2	10
Barratt		3	17	3	37	.378	1	3	10
Ohta		3	1	0	2	.500	0	0	13
Weaver		3	12	6	39	.154	0	4	22
Walls		3	15	3	31	.387	0	4	4
Haneef		3	14	2	29	.414	1	6	0
	Totals	3	75	16	183	.322	2	20	89
Aces--TA&M(2): Strickland, Cole. LBSU (3): Kierulff, Barratt, Weaver. Assists--TA&M (57): Moscovic 39, Harvey 11. LBSU (67): Nishimoto 60.

A--6,416. T--1:50. Officials--Klubnikin, Rolf

All-Tournament Team

Most Outstanding Player-Cheryl Weaver, LBSU.

Courtney Cox, CSU; Brandy Barratt, LBSU; Summer Strickland, TA&M; Tayyiba Haneef, LBSU; Veronica Lima, UH.

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