Long Beach State

Long Beach State Volleyball Still Undefeated, Still No. 1

The Long Beach State men’s volleyball team is still undefeated, still the unanimous No. 1-ranked team in America, and still a hell of a lot of fun. The 49ers put on a show for the 1,000 fans who picked volleyball over the Oscars on Sunday night, with stars TJ DeFalco and Kyle Ensing holding a mid-match contest to see who could get a higher bounce on their kills.

With the 25-18, 25-18-25-17 sweep of CSU Northridge, the 49ers won their first home Big West conference match and improved to a perfect 16-0 on the season, a mark that ties the school record for best start.

Coach Alan Knipe bristled at the mention of the historic mark for his team.

“We’ve literally never talked about it until right now, so thank you,” he said. “I’m really proud of what they’ve done, but in reality it doesn’t change anything. Even having this conversation will give me some fire to come in the gym on Monday and say it doesn’t matter. I don’t believe it matters—wherever that stuff falls it falls.”

As Knipe delivered that monologue DeFalco and Ensing shared a laugh on either side of him during the postgame press conference.

“They can probably do a pretty good impression of what I’ll say in practice,” said Knipe with a smile.

The 49ers are in pursuit of some other historic marks, consciously or not. They’ve got a legitimate shot at the NCAA’s first undefeated men’s volleyball season since 1984, with just nine matches left in the regular season. They’re also currently hitting .407 on the season, which would be an NCAA record.

The team might also feature the best 1-2-3 punch ever in DeFalco, Ensing, and setter Josh Tuaniga, all three of whom are the best at their positions. On Sunday DeFalco had 15 kills on .458 hitting, seven digs, two blocks and an ace. Ensing hit .333 with nine kills, as well as two aces and three digs.

Both hitters credit Tuaniga’s lightning-quick abilities with the team’s potentially record-setting offense. Tuaniga had 28 assists in the match, and the team hit .483 on balls he set—which is actually below his season average of .547.

The players didn’t want to talk about how good they’ve been so far this year either. After last year’s team showed so much promise but fell short in the Final Four, their focus has genuinely been on trying to keep getting better so that they don’t plateau at the wrong time.

“We’re just focusing on us, trying to get one percent or two percent better every day,” she said. “We just have to come in every day and water the green spots.”

Mike Guardabascio
An LBC native, Mike Guardabascio has been covering Long Beach sports professionally for 13 years, with his work published in dozens of Southern California magazines and newspapers. He's won numerous awards for his writing as well as the CIF Southern Section’s Champion For Character Award, and is the author of three books about Long Beach history.