Long Beach State coach Alan Knipe gushes when he talks about junior middle blocker Simon Torwie. While most of the nation recognizes the 6-foot-10 native of Spain for his blocking — he led the nation with 1.60 per set — Knipe likes to point out all of the other things Torwie does well.
They all were on display in the latter stages of the fourth set against Grand Canyon in their 22-25, 25-17, 25-22, 25-23 NCAA Tournament victory Tuesday at George Mason.
With the score knotted 20-20 after a video review ruled Torwie touched a GCU kill attempt before it landed out of bounds, he had two kills, an ace and a dig as The Beach scored five of the final eight points to hold off GCU, 25-23, and earn a four-set victory.
Long Beach (21-4) advances to play top-seeded UCLA (29-2) in Thursday’s first semifinal at 5 p.m. Eastern. In February, UCLA defeated Long Beach State twice at Pauley Pavilion, 3-0 and 3-1.
The other semifinal will be Thursday at 7:30 p.m. Eastern and feature No. 2 Hawaii (28-2) against the winner of the later Tuesday match between Ohio State and Penn State.
After the call on Torwie that tied the fourth set, he put down a vicious kill — his ninth of the match — to put The Beach up 21-20. A Camden Gianni kill pulled the Lopes even again, but Torwie responded with his 10th kill to put Long Beach up 22-21.
On the ensuing rally, Torwie lunged for a dig to keep the point alive, and Sotiris Siapanis gave Beach a two-point cushion with a dink over the net. Torwie wasn’t done. On the next point, he served an ace to the feet of Christian Janke to give Long Beach a 24-21 lead.
Kills by Gianni and Janke brought Grand Canyon to 24-23, but a slick tip by Siapanis ended the Lopes’ first visit to the NCAA Tournament.
Torwie finished with 10 kills on 11 swings — with no errors — to hit .909 to go with eight blocks, two aces and two digs.
If the country learned Torwie was more than just a tall dude who sticks up his hands to swat opposing kill attempts, it also learned Grand Canyon belonged in the tournament.
A neophyte program in Division I, the Lopes (20-8) consistently were ranked among the top six or seven teams all season. Still, there had to have been those who wondered if GCU of the MPSF was deserving of an at-large bid.
Surely a team such as UC Irvine, which knocked Long Beach out of…
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