Long Beach State Volleyball

Electric Atmosphere Powers Long Beach State’s 17-0 Start

A wave went up in the Walter Pyramid, and records came down. It was a historic weekend for the No. 1 Long Beach State men’s volleyball team, which rewrote the history books during a pair of sweeps against No. 8 Stanford and St. Francis.

The more than 2,000 fans in attendance for the win over the Cardinal were having such a good time, they even did an actual wave in the stands.

“I’ve seen that internationally, I don’t think I’ve seen it at a college volleyball game on the West Coast,” said head coach Alan Knipe. “The experience for everyone who’s coming right now is special, you can tell how much they’re enjoying it. We’re really proud of having a big student section that’s getting bigger every week.”

Fans were also treated to the presence of a new video review system, which allowed plays to be challenged and reviewed with slow-motion high-def video on the Pyramid’s large videoboard.

The atmosphere in the building accompanied some of the best volleyball that’s ever been played by a Long Beach team. With the wins, Long Beach State improved to a nation-best 17-0 on the year and have still only dropped one set. In a 25-18, 25-13, 25-14 win over the No. 8 Cardinal, Long Beach State and setter Josh Tuaniga also established a new program record for best hitting percentage in a single match, with an absurd .655 clip.

That broke a 36 year-old record of .611.

“We just expect greatness from each other all the time, no matter what,” said middle blocker Nick Amado. “We train for it in our gym. We want everyone to be offensive all the time, that’s just how Long Beach volleyball is.”

Tuaniga also joined the 4,000-assist club at Long Beach State–he’s just the fourth to ever do that and is No. 2 in the all-time program record books under the modern scoring format.

“Seeing a number like that just helps me reflect on the past players I’ve played with as well as Kyle (Ensing) and TJ (DeFalco) who’ve put so many balls away for me,” said Tuaniga. “It’s a testament to all those people who led the program before.”

The win over St. Francis was also the team’s 35th-consecutive home win, as the Beach continue to extend their record performance in the Pyramid. The weekend wasn’t all banner headlines. DeFalco entered Saturday’s match just two aces shy of breaking the program record for points from the back line and was pressing during the match, firing 72 mile per hour serves into the net. He also acknowledged the team had an emotional lull during the second set of the 25-12, 25-21, 25-14.

“We work on executing our job and then celebrating the heck out of it,” he said. “We had a little bit of a struggle tonight to bring that real fire.”

DeFalco is notoriously self-critical, but his comments didn’t come as a surprise. While most programs would be happy with booming attendance from new diehard fans, a pair of record-setting sweeps by a combined point total of 150-92, and the top ranking in the nation, the Long Beach State squad continues to emphasize that their focus isn’t on a national title or on going undefeated this season, but on improving.

“The longer I’ve done this the more I know the important of staying in the moment,” said Knipe. “Sitting back and reflecting on accomplishments doesn’t help us. The best thing about this group is their thirst to want to get better. It’s not cliche when we say we want to get better by 1-2% every day and it’s not driven by the coaching staff. Every guy on Monday will have two or three things they want to work on in the gym.”

Long Beach State (17-0) will get its next big test this week, as they host No. 4 UC Santa Barbara on Thursday and then travel to UCSB on Friday.

PHOTOS: Long Beach State vs. Stanford NCAA Volleyball

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.