Major news landed Wednesday morning as the American Volleyball Coaches Association announced that Long Beach State junior setter Josh Tuaniga is this year’s National Player of the Year.
“It’s really an honor and I appreciate it, especially on behalf of my family,” said Tuaniga.
Of the 29 previous honorees, Tuaniga becomes just the seventh setter to win the award, which has been dominated by outside hitters. Last year the award went to Tuaniga’s teammate on the 49ers, TJ DeFalco. The duo have been friends and teammates for a decade at the youth, high school, club, and collegiate level.
DeFalco said last week that he hoped the award went to Tuaniga this year.
“He is 100% the Player of the Year,” said DeFalco. “If I had a vote right now, I’d vote for him. I was so stoked for him getting the Big West Tournament MVP, it’s about time they looked at the real MVP.”
Tuaniga is the fifth national POY at Long Beach State after DeFalco (2017), Taylor Crabb (2013), Paul Lotman (2008), and Brent Hilliard (1992).
This year Tuaniga led the 49ers to a .379 attack percentage despite working with four new starters. On balls set by Tuaniga, the 49ers hit .517 as he racked up 10.5 assists per set.
“The body of work that Josh has put in has been pretty spectacular,” said Knipe. “Four new pieces is a lot and our numbers have been consistent. You have to give credit to a setter for the job he’s done, they don’t get recognized very often.”
The 49ers will be in a rare spot next year with Tuaniga and DeFalco returning, making them one of the only teams in history to have two National Players of the Year on their roster, as well as three other All-Americans returning.
Tuaniga is a hometown kid having moved to North Long Beach and then East Long Beach at a young age. He went to Lindbergh and Stanford Middle Schools before attending St. John Bosco and Huntington Beach High Schools. Tuaniga’s family has lived a few minutes from Long Beach State’s campus since he was in middle school.
The top-ranked 49ers will face two-time defending national champion Ohio State on Thursday at UCLA at 5 p.m. in the NCAA Final Four.
Feature: DeFalco, Tuaniga’s Partnership Brings Special Results For Long Beach State