Four Big West Teams Placed In AVCA Preseason Poll Top 15
AVCA Division I-II Preseason Men's Volleyball Poll
The inaugural season of men’s volleyball draws closer as the American Volleyball Coaches Association Preseason Poll lists four Big West teams among the top 15.
Long Beach State earned four first-place votes and 345 points to finish No. 2 in the AVCA poll behind top-ranked Ohio State, which garnered 19 first-place votes and 361 points.
Hawai‘i (No. 5), UC Irvine (No. 7) and CSUN (No. 11) also found spots within the top 15, showcasing the overall quality of depth in the Big West. UC Santa Barbara and UC San Diego were listed among the “others receiving votes” squads.
Long Beach State is coming off of a 2017 campaign that witnessed the program capture its first Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament championship and ninth trip to the NCAA Tournament. The Beach finished 27-4 overall with six All-Americans under AVCA and MPSF Coach of the Year Alan Knipe.
Among the returners to the 2018 Beach squad are AVCA First Team All-Americans TJ DeFalco and Josh Tuaniga. DeFalco was named the 2017 TeamSnap/AVCA Division I-II National Player of the Year after posting 3.99 kills per set and hitting .389. The 6-foot-4 junior outside hitter notched double-digit kills in 29 out of LBSU’s 31 matches last year.
Tuaniga, a 6-3 junior setter, finished the 2017 season as the nation’s leader in assists per set (11.06). He was the only player in the country to average more than 11 assists per set. With Tuaniga directing the offense, Long Beach State led the nation with a .366 attack percentage, which doubled as the highest output in MPSF rally-scoring history.
In addition to DeFalco, Tuaniga has another one of his top offensive options to pass to in junior outside hitter Kyle Ensing. Ensing captured AVCA and VolleyballMag.com Second Team All-America accolades after hitting .335 with 3.37 kills per set.
Hawai‘i joined Long Beach State in the semifinals of the 2017 NCAA Tournament. The Warriors won an opening round match against Penn State to punctuate their fifth trip to the NCAA’s. The return of junior opposite Stijn van Tilburg and senior libero Larry Tuileta helped UH achieve the No. 5 preseason ranking.
Van Tilburg ranked No. 3 nationally with a 4.25 kills per set average in 2017 as he received AVCA All-America first team accolades. Tuileta was an AVCA All-America second team selection after finishing No. 14 in the country in digs per set (2.36).
A young but talented UC Irvine squad is led by 7-foot sophomore middle blocker Scott Stadick, who earned AVCA honorable mention All-American plaudits and VolleyballMag.com Freshman of the Year recognition after ranking No. 5 in the country in blocks (1.19 big) and No. 6 in hitting percentage (.421).
CSUN returns senior opposite Arvis Greene, the program’s first All-American since 2010. Greene secured an AVCA honorable mention nod in 2017 after averaging 3.99 kills per set.
The season begins on Thursday, January 4 with the UC Santa Barbara Asics Invitational and Texaco Warrior Rainbow Classic.