UCLA defeats Long Beach State for second straight NCAA men's volleyball title

UCLA players raised the NCAA championship trophy to each corner of the Walter Pyramid. Swaths of blue-and-gold clad fans still remained. They chanted.

“Back-to-back! Back-to-back!”

Top-seeded UCLA defended its national championship with a four-set win over No. 2 Long Beach State on Saturday. The Bruins won their 21st NCAA title in program history and completed their first repeat bid since 1996.

UCLA handed Long Beach State its first loss in the Pyramid this season, winning 25-21, 25-20, 29-27, 25-21. The Beach was 19-0 at home this season.

Senior Ethan Champlin was named the tournament’s most outstanding player after leading the Bruins with 15 kills and six blocks in the championship match. With shaky hands and watery eyes, he struggled to loosen the back of his championship hat before covering his brown hair with the gray MVP cap.

After winning the first set, UCLA raced to a 12-5 lead in the second. The Bruins scored four consecutive points on junior Ido David’s serve, including two thunderous aces. The UCLA opposite challenged Long Beach State’s Mason Briggs and won as the star libero shanked a pass into the stands. David again flummoxed the Long Beach State passing line when he dropped an ace in the gap between passers. Long Beach State’s players exchanged puzzled looks.

David had three aces for UCLA, the top-serving team in the eight-team NCAA tournament field.

Needing to solidify its back line, Long Beach State brought opposite Clarke Godbold in for Nathan Harlan. Godbold, an honorable mention All-American, was benched in Long Beach State’s thrilling semifinal match in exchange for Harlan’s electric offense. He delivered three kills, an ace and two blocks in the second set to lift Long Beach, but the Beach still fell into a two-set deficit.

Godbold saved the Beach in the third set, fighting off a UCLA championship point with a kill that evened the score at 24-24. He doubled down with a second consecutive kill that gave Long Beach State its first set point. The Beach needed four chances to close out the set, finally clinching on a solo block by DiAeris McRaven.

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