The Long Beach State men’s volleyball team extended their program-record home win streak to 40 matches on Friday night after pulling out an epic three-hour five-setter against No. 1 Hawaii, handing the Bows their first loss of the season. Hawaii came into the Pyramid undefeated and having only lost one set all year, establishing a new NCAA record for consecutive sets won. Long Beach State relied on performances from its biggest stars as well as lesser-known bench players in a 24-26, 25-22, 16-25, 25-15, 15-13 victory.
“It was very much the match we prepped for and the one we will prep for 24 hours from now,” said Long Beach State coach Alan Knipe.
The teams played before a crowd of 4,011, the second-largest crowd for a men’s volleyball match in school history. That crowd and both teams were buzzing on the way out of the Pyramid, with the excitement that comes from knowing the rematch was less than a day away–the teams will play against Saturday evening at 7 p.m.
“It’s as close as you can get to professional sports, where you have an NBA playoff series or the World Series, they’re slugging it out and you have to come back and do it again,” said Knipe. “It’s not easy on anyone, especially the players. But we’re built for it, we’ll be ready to go tomorrow night.”
Long Beach State settled down after the first three sets and were able to receive serve and make accurate passes to setter Josh Tuaniga, who was at the top of his game in leading Long Beach to a .344 attack. TJ DeFalco led with 18 kills on .500 hitting, nine digs, four aces, four assists, and a block. Kyle Ensing had 18 kills, seven blocks, and a pair of aces. Libero Jordan Molina added nine digs while Nick Amado had nine kills in the middle.
“It was a slugfest like we expected,” said DeFalco. “They served great and we had some trouble with it. Kyle and I had to be good on the pins because they were blowing us up with the serve to take away the middle.”
Knipe made a pair of key subs in the match. His coaching staff often brags about the quality of the backup team in practice and its ability to challenge starters and that skill was on display Friday, with Ethan Siegfried coming in for Louis Richard and putting up five kills, six blocks and four digs, and Shane Holdaway coming in for Simon Andersen and putting up four kills on four swings, two blocks, and an ace.
“I wouldn’t say I was surprised, because we prepare and practice for nights like this,” said Holdaway. “I’m just happy we got the win.”
Molina talked about how physical Hawaii is, with a front line that goes 6-9/6-11/6-6, but it was Long Beach that rode strong serving to put up 14 blocks.
“I’m really proud of the guys who came in who haven’t seen a lot of action,” said Knipe. “What an amazing environment it was with our fans, we have a great student section, and it was loud. Be louder again tomorrow night, bring a friend. There’s not a lot of room for friends, but bring one.”