One Month Later: The National Champs
One month ago Long Beach State won a National Championship, here are the long term effects on the community.
At some point between winter and springtime in Long Beach, the volleyball bug spread across the city. More so than usual, people started to show up to the Long Beach State Pyramid and take notice. Myself included.
I’ve been going to the pyramid my entire life. This season was no different. I went to nearly every home game with my Dad. What was different, was seeing the pyramid consistently full for maybe the second time in my life. Quite honestly, the accomplishments and excitement this season were some of the most spectacular events that I have seen in my life. Fans came out of the woodworks and bought into the hype like I’ve never seen.
My dad, an alumni who’s been a volleyball fan his entire life, described the feeling of winning two national championships in a row as “making him proud to be a 49er.” He said that “what Long Beach was offering its players must have been more valuable than other schools with more prestige and money.” That’s pretty cool for our school and our city.
My neighbor Jason Mattocks moved to Long Beach two years ago. With no long-term connections to Long Beach State or to the city, he still caught the bug.
“Being new to the area we were excited to be a part of the community. We went to one game with friends and were hooked.”
The teams high flying offense led by some of the best players in the nation. Consistently winning week by week every home game, whether is was a quick 3 game sweep or a hard fought five set victory. It was one of the most exciting teams to watch in Long Beach, it was cool being able to watch a dynasty being created. The big three of the team T.J. DeFalco, Kyle Ensing, and Josh Tuaniga all are currently playing for the USA National team only a few weeks after graduating college.
Long time Long Beach resident Debbie Nansen bought season tickets this season with her husband as a way to support the local team. She described the National Championship win as exciting and that it was amazing for her to support a local winning team.
The season started with Long Beach raising a National Championship banner from last year. Seeing the men's team hoist their first national championship banner go up in almost 30 years was monumental. An image that many like myself cannot wait to see again in the fall. The crowd was ecstatic, many saw something that they had not been alive for before.
While the Pyramid from the outside is beautiful it is blue glory. The inside is even more amazing, especially when it is packed for a volleyball game. When the season started to pick up so did the fans. As you could see more and more people and students going to games. You could see something special was going on as attendance records were being broken. Success is not new to The Beach as we have produced some amazing volleyball players during Alan Knipes tenure, but the talent of individuals never came together quite like it did this year.
Standout setter, (likely) future Olympian, and heart of this year’s team, Josh Tuaniga saw a noticeable difference in the team the last two years during their success run.
“The level of buy-in throughout the entire team in the last two years was probably a key characteristic in us winning. From the starting seven to the redshirts, everyone was willing to do whatever it took to win.”
Josh was the best setter in college volleyball the moment he stepped on the court, some say its because he has soft hands, others say his court vision, but we all know what separates him from the pack. He is a Long Beach guy, while Josh did not attend High School is Long Beach he is still born and bred Long Beach. Josh saw winning his second national championship as something that would last with him forever. He also believed it will have a lasting impact in Long Beach.
“I can definitely see a growth happening within the youth through volleyball with all the attention that surrounded the games. I would hope that those who didn’t think much of the sport will now see how great the sport and the community surrounding it was to me.”
Well Josh, speaking for the people of Long Beach I call tell you we are all in love with the sport now. And oh yeah, Long Beach? Expect to be at EJ Malloy's for many more championship celebrations. Long Beach is now Volleyball U and proud of it.
As senior starting middle blocker Nick Amado says “I don’t see why next year’s team can’t repeat again. They work incredibly hard, and people don’t see this but they would beat us everyday in practice. Plus imagine how much better you get squaring off every day against a guy like T.J. DeFalco?”
So you heard it here first Long Beach. Sounds like we’ve got the volleyball bug, and we may not have a cure. So put your kids in a youth program today and purchase next year’s season tickets tomorrow. We may be only 11 months from a third National Championship!