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Men's Volleyball

NATIONAL CHAMPS! Long Beach State Defeats UCLA For Second Title







The inaugural season of Big West men's volleyball couldn't have been scripted any better.  Long Beach State, the No. 1 team in the country all season long, knocked off UCLA in a five-set thriller (25-19, 23-25, 20-25, 26-24, 15-12) to win the 2018 NCAA national championship at Pauley Pavilion Saturday.

The Beach finished the season 28-1 and captured the program's second national title in men's volleyball – and the first since 1991 when current head coach Alan Knipe was a starting middle blocker for that squad.

It is the 18th national team championship for the Big West, and the eighth different sport recognized. 

For the second straight match, junior opposite Kyle Ensing equalled his season high with 20 kills and added four service aces.  He had three kills in the decisive fifth set, including one that set up match point.  Ensing also collected 20 kills in LBSU's four-set triumph over Ohio State in Thursday's national semifinals.

Junior outside hitter TJ DeFalco contributed 18 kills on .419 hitting, and added 12 digs to secure his sixth double-double of the season.  He had a double-double in both LBSU Final Four victories.

The Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Tournament, junior setter Josh Tuaniga, set the Beach offense to a .325 hitting percentage.  It is the 27th time in 29 matches that LBSU has hit .300 or better.  Tuaniga dished out 46 assists to go along with five digs and a service ace.  His lone ace was a huge one, as it came on set point in the fourth frame to give LBSU the 26-24 victory and tie the match at two sets apiece.

Tuaniga created the set point opportunity on the previous play.  He dumped the ball over the net for one of his three kills.  Tuaniga made a similar play on match point in LBSU's win against Ohio State.

It was the first time this season that the Beach trailed in a match after three sets.  After hitting .478 (14-3-23) to win set one handily 25-19, the Bruins rebounded to win sets two and three by 25-23 and 25-20 scores.  LBSU hit just .091 in the third set.

UCLA appeared headed for more success in set four as LBSU called timeout trailing 11-6.  The Bruins still led 14-10 on a kill by Dylan Missry that forced LBSU to call its final timeout.

UCLA had a four-point advantage at 17-13 when LBSU began to creep back into the match.  DeFalco had three kills during a 6-1 run that allowed LBSU to grab its first lead of the set at 19-18.  Ensing put away another kill to put LBSU up again by one, 20-19.

The Bruins committed seven costly service errors in set four, including on four consecutive serves that gave LBSU points 21, 22, 23 and 24, setting up Tuaniga for his heroics.

In the final set – just LBSU's fourth contest this season that went the distance – UCLA had three more service errors early on but still led 4-3.

But with the match on the line, LBSU leaned on its powerful block.  DeFalco and Nick Amado turned back a Daenan Gyimah attempt to knot the score at 7-7.

With the score tied at 9-9, Long Beach State stuffed three consecutive UCLA attempts to take a 12-9 lead.  Ensing and Amado had block assists on two straight Christian Hessenauer swings, and DeFalco solo roofed Dylan Missry coming out of a UCLA timeout.  Tuaniga was the server on those three crucial plays.

UCLA trimmed its deficit to 12-11 on an LBSU service error and attack error, but Missry's botched serve – UCLA's 26th error from the service line – gave the Beach a 13-11 advantage.  Ensing gave LBSU match point with his 20th kill at 14-11.  After a Bruin kill made it 14-12, Tuaniga set Amado and the junior middle blocker knocked it down as the Beach celebrated as national champions in front of a crowd of 7,248.

LBSU out-blocked UCLA 4.0-1.0 in the fifth set while holding the Bruins to .062 (6-5-16) hitting.

NCAA All-Tournament Team
TJ DeFalco, Long Beach State
Kyle Ensing, Long Beach State
Daenan Gyimah, UCLA
Jake Hanes, Ohio State
Micah Ma'a, UCLA
Nicolas Szerszen, Ohio State
Josh Tuaniga, Long Beach State (Most Outstanding Player)