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A Look Back at the 2018 National Championship Men's Volleyball Season

May 16, 2018

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A Look Back at the 2018 National Championship Men's Volleyball Season
The historic season for the 2018 Long Beach State men's volleyball team came to an end in the most exciting way possible. On Saturday, May 5, the Beach captured their second-ever National Championship and first since 1991.

The 2018 season was special in many ways. The Beach kicked off the year on a program-record 24-match winning streak as they won all but one of their matches to post an impressive 28-1 overall record. The 28 victories are tied for second-most in a single season.

Long Beach State's hot start led to the Beach earning a No. 1 national ranking on January 15 and the Beach would hold that spot for the remainder of the season. The team to beat rolled through their non-conference season with a perfect 15-0 record and boasted a 9-1 Big West Conference mark to win the regular season title and earn a No. 1 seed into the inaugural Big West Conference Tournament.

The Beach collected back-to-back sweeps in the conference tournament to win the Big West Championship and punch their ticket to their third-straight NCAA Final Four appearance.

LBSU boasted its second-straight undefeated home season as the Beach went 12-0 when playing inside the Walter Pyramid and extended its home winning streak to 29, the second-longest such streak in program history.

During the regular season, the Beach saw several individual milestones as head coach Alan Knipe recorded his 300th career victory, and juniors TJ DeFalco and Kyle Ensing became the 21st and 22nd players, respectively, in program history to reach 1,000 career kills. If that weren't enough, junior setter Josh Tuaniga amassed 3,000 career assists becoming just the seventh player at Long Beach State to accomplish that feat.

With the list of accolades mounting, Knipe went on to win the USMC/AVCA Coach of the Year honors for the third time in his career, while associate head coach Nick MacRae took home the AVCA Assistant Coach of the Year award.

While the coaching staff enjoyed several honors, so did the players. Tuaniga was named AVCA National Player of the Year, while, along with DeFalco and Ensing, was named to the AVCA All-America First Team. The Beach boasted five AVCA All-Americans as redshirt junior middle blocker Nick Amado was named to the Second Team and freshman middle Simon Anderson earned Honorable Mention selection.

Tuaniga was also named MVP of the Big West Tournament, and DeFalco garnered Big West Player of the Year. The duo along with Ensing and Amado also earned First Team All-Big West accolades, while senior outside hitter Bjarne Huus and Anderson collected Honorable Mention honors. Anderson was also named to the Big West All-Freshman Team.

The awards and honors kept coming for the Beach, but they had their sights set on the prize. And on May 1, Long Beach State set out to Westwood to bring a trophy back to Long Beach.

The Beach took on the two-time defending National Champion Ohio State Buckeyes in the Final Four and battled them to a four-set win. With the victory, Long Beach State secured its spot in the National Championship match for the first time since 2004.

Long Beach State would be going up against No. 3 UCLA on the Bruins' home court of Pauley Pavilion for the title. The top-ranked Beach came out ready to play and earned a 25-19 win in set one. However, the Bruins would take the next two sets 25-23 and 25-20 to go up 2-1 on LBSU.

Trailing 11-6 in the fourth set, the Beach began to chip away at UCLA's lead and LBSU used a 6-1 run to go up 19-18. Long Beach State's gritty effort proved to be the difference maker as the Beach battled the Bruins to a 24-24 tie before Tuaniga put the set away with a kill followed by an ace to force a fifth and deciding set.

Long Beach State and UCLA battled each other in the fifth set, but the Beach capitalized on several Bruin errors to go up 12-9. Long Beach State pushed it to match point (14-11) and Amado's fourth kill of the match proved to be the match winner as the Beach earned a five-set win to cap its historic season.

With the end of an incredible season came much celebration. Following the postgame celebration, trophy presentation, and postmatch interviews with All-Tournament Team selections DeFalco, Ensing and Tuaniga, who was named Most Outstanding Player of the Tournament, the Beach headed back to Long Beach.

Long Beach State closed the 2018 season with a nation-leading .375 attack percentage which is the highest hitting percentage in the Rally-Scoring Era (2001-present) in program history.

Upon exiting the freeway in Long Beach, the team bus was met by a police escort which guided the National Champions to EJ Malloy's where friends, family, fans, and LB Nation were waiting. A well-deserved celebration for a team that never let up and kept pushing for one more win.

The end of the night did not put an end to the team's recognition, however. In the weeks that followed, the National Champion Men's Volleyball Team signed a commemorative poster prior to the Dirtbags baseball game the Saturday after claiming the national title. DeFalco, Ensing, Tuaniga, Matt Butler, Zach Gates, and Jason Willahan participated in the "first serve" at the Dirtbags game, then the team as a whole was recognized on the field during the game.

The City of Long Beach showed its gratitude to the Beach by honoring the team on Tuesday, May 15 at the Council Meeting. Following the City Council Meeting, the Beach closed to the book on their unforgettable season at the end of the year banquet.

About The Beach
• Long Beach State men's volleyball captured the 2018 National Championship becoming just the second team in program history to accomplish that feat, joining the 1991 squad.
• The Beach went 28-1 on the year and recorded the most victories in a single season since 2004.
• LBSU strung together a program-record 24-match winning streak, which also marked the best start to the season in Long Beach State men's volleyball history.
• Long Beach State recorded its second-straight undefeated season at home as the Beach went 12-0 when playing inside the Walter Pyramid. LBSU is 39-3 inside the Pyramid over the last three seasons boasting a .929 winning percentage. Since 2016, Long Beach State has put together a 29-match winning streak at home which is the second longest such streak in program history.
• LBSU won 19 three-set victories in 2018 which ties for the second most sweeps in program history. The Beach were just one sweep shy of tying the program record (20) which was set in 2017.
• LBSU moved into the No. 1 spot in the National Rankings on January 15 and remained there ever since.
• Long Beach State concluded the season leading the nation in winning percentage (.966) and with a nation-leading attack percentage of .375.
• The Beach have now led the country in hitting percentage in each of the last two years.
• Long Beach State finished the year leading the Big West Conference in hitting percentage (.375), opponent hitting percentage (.194), aces per set (1.78), and winning percentage (.966).
• The Beach out-hit their opponents on 27 occasions and went 27-0 when posting a higher attack percentage.
• LBSU hit .300 or higher in 26 matches on the year boasting a 25-1 record when hitting above .300.
• The Beach finished the year with a 5-0 record against Top 5 opponents.
• Long Beach State won the Big West regular season title and conference tournament in the inaugural season of Big West men's volleyball.
• A new LBSU men's volleyball attendance record was set earlier this season as the Walter Pyramid reached full capacity with 4,560 spectators on Feb. 17 as the No. 1 Beach took on then-No. 2 UCLA in what would be a National Championship preview.
• Long Beach State would go on to more than double its average attendance mark from a year ago.

LBSU Individual Accolades
Head Coach Alan Knipe
• USMC/AVCA National Coach of the Year
• Big West Conference Coach of the Year
• VolleyMob Coach of the Year
• Recorded his 300th career victory with a 3-0 sweep at UC San Diego (4/6)
• Became just the second head coach in Division I-II men's volleyball history to win a National Championship as both a player (1991) and head coach (2018).
• Owns a 306-147 career record for a winning percentage of .675, which is the highest winning percentage of any men's volleyball head coach at LBSU.

Associate Head Coach Nick MacRae
• AVCA National Assistant Coach of the Year

Junior Setter Josh Tuaniga
• AVCA National Player of the Year
• NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player
• NCAA All-Tournament Team
• Big West Tournament MVP
• All-Big West First Team
• AVCA First Team All-American
• Lloy Ball Award Winner
• VolleyMob Second Team All-American
• Became the seventh player in program history to record 3,000 career assists
• Big West Player of the Week (1/15)
• VolleyMob Player of the Week (1/16)

Junior Outside Hitter TJ DeFalco
• NCAA All-Tournament Team
• Big West Player of the Year
• AVCA First Team All-American
• All-Big West First Team
• Karch Kiraly Award Winner
• VolleyMob First Team All-American
• Became the 21st player in program history to record 1,000 career kills
• Big West Player of the Week (2/19 and 4/2)
• Big West Defensive Player of the Week (2/5 and 2/19)
• AVCA National Player of the Week (2/20)

Junior Opposite Kyle Ensing
• NCAA All-Tournament Team
• AVCA First Team All-American
• All-Big West First Team
• Bryan Ivie Award Winner
• VolleyMob First Team All-American
• Became the 22nd player in program history to record 1,000 career kills

Redshirt Junior Middle Blocker Nick Amado
• AVCA Second Team All-American
• All-Big West First Team
• VolleyMob Third Team All-American
• Big West Defensive Player of the Week (1/15)

Freshman Middle Blocker Simon Anderson
• AVCA All-American Honorable Mention
• Big West All-Freshman Team
• All-Big West Honorable Mention
• Off the Block/Springbak, Inc., Freshman All-American Team
• VolleyMob Freshman All-American Team
• Seven-time Big West Freshman of the Week

Senior Outside Hitter Bjarne Huus
• All-Big West Honorable Mention

Senior Libero Matt Butler
• Dodge Parker Award Winner

Dodge Parker Award
Dodge Parker was a standout on both the 1970 and 1973 Long Beach State Men's Volleyball Final Four teams. A two-time All-American for the 49ers, he went on to play for the U.S. National Team, and was inducted into the LBSU Hall of Fame in 1986.

Parker, who was considered one of the best volleyball players in the world during his time, was also a star in the International Volleyball Association (IVA) where he was a four-time All-IVA selection. He was named the league's Most Valuable Player in 1976 and the Coach of the Year in 1977. Parker passed away from a heart attack at the age of 29.

In 2001, Long Beach State men's volleyball created the "Dodge Parker Award" in his memory. The award recognizes the player(s) who went above and beyond what is required to be an ironman.

This year, Long Beach State awarded the Dodge Parker "Ironman" Award to senior libero Matt Butler.

Dodge Parker "Ironman" Award Winners
2001 - Jim Polster
2002 - Jeff Wootton
2003 - Scott Touzinsky
2004 - Team
2005 - Kevin Cape
2006 - Tyler Hildebrand
2007 - Teddy Liles
2008 - Conor Eaton & Adam Schlesinger
2009 - Dustin Watten
2010 - Tommy Pestolesi
2011 - Team
2012 - Team
2013 - Dalton Ammerman & McKay Smith
2014 - Connor Olbright
2015 - Dan Glamack
2016 - Taylor Gregory
2017 - Curtis Stallings
2018 - Matt Butler

Thank You to Darrell Auxier
At the banquet, former Long Beach State men's volleyball player Darrell Auxier and his wife Christine made a $27,000 donation to the program. He chose the amount based on the 27 years that passed between the team's 1991 and 2018 National Championships. In addition to their generous contribution, Darrell also made this gift to challenge the alumni to make donations. "I was in the Ukleja Suite a few years ago," Darrell explained. "I saw (former LBSU men's volleyball player) Harold Noriega's name on the donor wall. I saw that he had made a sizeable contribution a few years ago. At the game that night, we were sitting together and I said, `Harold, that gift is pretty sizable.' Harold said, `D, everything that I have is either directly or indirectly related to volleyball and Long Beach State. The contacts I made, the job opportunities, everything - it's the least I can do.' He inspired me to want to support this program. Everything I have is credited to my time here at Long Beach State. I believe in what Coach Knipe stands for and how is he is developing these young men." Thank you, Darrell, for your generous contribution! To donate to the Long Beach State Men's Volleyball program, click HERE!

Staying Social
Follow Long Beach State men's volleyball on Twitter and Instagram at @LBSUMVB. You can also stay up-to-date on all things Long Beach State by following @LBSUAthletics. Be sure to "like" us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram at @LBSU. And don't forget our hashtags #GoBeach and #LBNation.


 

 

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