LONG BEACH, Calif. >> National player of the year TJ DeFalco put down 20 kills with three aces and Long Beach State successfully defended its NCAA men’s volleyball title, turning back top-ranked Hawaii 23-25, 25-22, 25-22, 25-23 tonight at the Walter Pyramid.
The 49ers (28-2) won their 43rd straight at home dating back to 2006 when defeating the Rainbow Warriors (28-3) at the Pyramid for the sixth consecutive time. Senior opposite Kyle Ensing added 13 kills and the Beach outblocked Hawaii, the top blocking team in the country, 12-4.
The 49ers also finished with the edge in aces, 8-3, with senior setter Josh Tuaniga also adding three.
Junior opposite Rado Parapunov finished with 16 kills, eight coming in Set 1, and junior hitter Colton Cowell 10 for the Warriors. Senior hitter Stijn van Tilburg ended his career with 10 kills and tying for match-high in digs with seven along with sophomore libero Gage Worsley.
It was the first time in four meetings between the two teams this season that the match didn’t go five.
Named to the all-tournment team from Hawaii were senior setter Joe Worsley, Parapunov and Cowell.
DeFalco was named the tournament MVP. Joining him were senior middle Nick Amado, setter Josh Tuaniga and sophomore middle Simon Andersen.
It was Hawaii’s third appearance in the NCAA title match, losing to UCLA in 1996 and defeating Pepperdine in 2002, a title that was later vacated for use of an ineligible player.
AVCA national player of the year TJ DeFalco took control down the stretch as Long Beach State rallied past Hawaii late in the set, 25-23.
UH led 18-17 on a kill by Colton Cowell, but then LBSU rattled off three straight points, capped with an ace by Josh Tuaniga.
The Rainbow Warriors trailed from there, saving one championship point but not a second, as DeFalco won a joust at the net.
Hawaii got off to a terrific start in the third, scoring the first five points, but the momentum would not last as Long Beach State took the frame 25-22 for a 2-1 overall lead.
Rado Parapunov was blocked as Long Beach State rallied to tie the set at 7. The 49ers went up by two, but UH setter Joe Worsley notched an ace to make it 12-all. Parapunov briefly put UH ahead, 15-14, with a hammer swing. LBSU’s TJ DeFalco’s consecutive aces put the 49ers back up, 17-15. Worsley put down an overpass to knot it at 17. Parapunov was blocked and The Beach went back up by a pair. LBSU committed consecutive attack errors and it was 21-all.
Parapunov went off the block to tie it at 22. An attack error gave LBSU a 24-22 lead and DeFalco hit one off the block to take the set.
Long Beach State jumped out by a few points and held on tight as UH threatened late in the frame, but the host 49ers took it 25-22 and evened the match at a set apiece.
Consecutive aces by Josh Tuaniga extended it to 13-9. A roll shot by TJ DeFalco kept the margin at four at 18-14.
Hawaii blocked DeFalco (the AVCA player of the year is up to nine kills on 15 swings) and the 49ers hit a ball out, as UH pulled within 20-18. Joe Worsley recorded a block to make it 22-21. But UH hit two service errors to set up set point for LBSU and Stijn van Tilburg was blocked to give the 49ers the set.
Hawaii came out fired up against host Long Beach State in the national championship, as opposite Rado Parapunov opened up the match hitting 8-for-8 and UH opened up a seven-point lead before holding on tight to take the frame 25-23.
After UH led 18-11, LBSU rallied within 21-17, then 22-19. Parapunov was blocked for the first time to get LBSU within 23-21. Middle Patrick Gasman hit a shot wide and it was a one-point game. But Colton Cowell put one down in transition for set point. The 49ers fought one off, but middle Dalton Solbrig put down an overpass.
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The Star-Advertiser’s Brian McInnis contributed to this story.