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No. 2 Long Beach wins last two sets to sink No. 4 Vaqueros, 3-2

Blake Lockhart, a 6-7 sophomore from Santa Ynez High, pounded a career-high 21 kills in the final home match of his career. (Photo by Ken Sciallo/Sevilla Photography)
Blake Lockhart, a 6-7 sophomore from Santa Ynez High, pounded a career-high 21 kills in the final home match of his career. (Photo by Ken Sciallo/Sevilla Photography)

Things were going great for SBCC in Friday's regular-season men's volleyball finale as the fourth-ranked Vaqueros scored three straight points to win the third set 27-25 and take a 2-1 lead over No. 2 Long Beach in the Sports Pavilion.

Then the roof fell in, or at least it felt that way, as the Vikings (16-3, 11-1 WSC) cruised to wins in the last two sets to pull out a 3-2 victory. The scores were 23-25, 25-19, 25-27, 25-16, 15-4.

It's the second time this year that Long Beach has won the last two sets to beat the Vaqueros 3-2.

Blake Lockhart, one of two sophomores who played their final home match on Friday, had a career-high 21 kills and 10 digs. Trent Lingruen and Calvin Sanborn added 15 kills apiece and Zac Pittard had nine kills.

After beating San Diego Mesa 3-2 in their second match of the year, the Vaqueros have dropped five straight five-set matches.

"I don't know if we get anxious or nervous but we start to change the way we're playing when we get ahead 2-1," said SBCC coach Jon Newton. "We start turning into individuals rather than playing as a team. You kind of see a 'Don't mess up' mentality rather than, 'Hey my team's behind me, let me continue playing the way I've been playing.'

"And you see the huge change in the fifth set. That's probably because we haven't won a lot of fifth sets."

Aaron Letvin dished out 37 assists to go with three aces. Chayton Clark led the Vaqueros in digs with a season-high 21.

The third set was tight throughout until the Vaqueros forced a 23-21 lead on a Sanborn kill. The Vikings came back to tie it and SBCC had set point, 24-23, on a block by Sanborn and Lingruen. Long Beach tied it again and had their own set point at 24-25.

Then the Vaqueros scored three straight on a kill by Lingruen, a kill off the block by Lockhart and a smashing set-winner by Linruen off a nice high set from Pittard, the Vaqueros' 6-7 middle blocker.

The Vikings dominated the fourth set with leads of 9-3, 13-6 and 18-11. Then the Vaqueros scored three straight to get within four (18-14) on an ace from Letvin and a tip kill by Lockhart. Miller Davis restored control for the visitors with back-to-back kills and SBCC hit into the net to fall behind 21-14.

LBCC jumped ahead 6-1 in the fifth set on an ace by Kyle Anema and also led 9-2 and 12-3. The Vaqueros had two kills and seven hitting errors in the fifth set.

"With a young team, mental toughness is often tough to find," said Newton. "That's why having second- and third-year guys is so beneficial. They've been in those situations before."

There's a good chance that the Vaqueros will end up playing at Long Beach in the quarterfinals of the Southern Cal Regional next Friday. The pairings will be announced on Saturday.