LBSU shows great potential for seasons to come

Kayce Contatore, Staff Writer

May 8, 2016

The young guns for the 49ers can lead LBSU to title hopes in the future seasons.

After a standout season for the Long Beach State men’s volleyball team this year, the 49ers hold great promise for the years to come.

With so many freshman players taking the reins for the 49ers this season, it for LBSU to become a top team in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation and in the country.

While the youth of the 49ers was one of their greatest assets to the team this season, it was also the youth that ultimately ended their conference title and National Championship hopes.

For the first time in eight years, LBSU earned a bid to the NCAA tournament, but ultimately fell to BYU in the semifinals. Exhaustion became a large factor for the younger players on the team, as they may not have been used to playing high caliber volleyball in back-to-back matches for such a long season.

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LBSU volleyball photo
LBSU’s senior middle blocker Taylor Gregory goes up for a kill against BYU in the 49ers’ 3-1 loss to the Cougars in the NCAA Tournament semifinals on Thursday in Rec Hall, University Park, Pennsylvania.

Photo courtesy of: Christopher Shannon

The 49ers hit at a .244 percentage, one of the lowest hitting percentages they have had on the season, and totaled 19 service errors which is the third highest amount this year.

Now that the first season is under their belts, the 49ers’ young guns know what to expect in matches and can better hold their own against some of the senior-laden squads in the league.

Coming into this season, LBSU had arguably the top recruiting class in the country, bringing the No. 1 recruit TJ DeFalco home to Long Beach. Add in setter Josh Tuaniga and hitter Kyle Ensing and the 49ers created an unstoppable trio for the years to come.

DeFalco leads the 49ers with 474 kills on the season, averaging 4.26 kills per set. Not far behind is Ensing with 333 kills for a 3.08 kills per set. Tuaniga was the one who helped direct DeFalco and Ensing to a great season, setting up a .327 hitting percentage on the year for the team.

What’s great for the 49ers is that these young players haven’t even reached their full potential yet. They have three more years with the team to learn and grow as players.

If LBSU brings in another top-ranked recruiting class for the 2017 season, this team could be unstoppable in the MPSF the next few years.

The only starter that LBSU will lose next season is middle blocker Taylor Gregory, who has propelled the 49er block the last few seasons. Gregory totalled 96 blocks this year to help the 49ers average 2.43 blocks per set.

The 49ers are welcoming back middle blockers Bryce Yould and Amir Lugo-Rodriguez for their senior season. Yould averaged 1.90 kills per set at middle and chipped in 84 total blocks on the season. In Lugo-Rodriguez’s first season back after redshirting last year, he had a .400 hitting percentage, averaging 1.38 kills per set.

While the 49ers didn’t have the postseason they were hoping for after losing to UCLA in the MPSF semifinals and BYU in the NCAA semifinals, the young team has great prospects for the coming years.

LBSU showed dominance in the MPSF, which is conceivably the most difficult conference in the country. The MPSF had 10 of its 12 teams ranked in the top 15 according to the NCAA coaches rankings, with four teams in the top five.

The 49ers proved that they are able to play against the best within their league, but also in the country with their non-conference matches against NCAA top 25 schools such as Ohio State University, Penn State University and Lewis University.

The best asset that the 49ers will have over the next few years is the team chemistry between the younger players and their ability to adapt to the conference teams. If that chemistry is matched with the addition of new recruits over the next few seasons, LBSU will hold a greater advantage over other teams.

After this season, the 49ers can learn and grow together to become the top team in the conference and hold the number one spot in the country again.