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No. 1 Long Beach State defeats USC to advance to MPSF semifinals

LBSU defeated USC, 25-22, 24-26, 25-18, 25-23.

Long Beach State outside hitter TJ DeFalco prepares to spike the ball. The sophomore also had four serve aces during the four-set win for the 49ers.

Bobby Yagake

Long Beach State outside hitter TJ DeFalco prepares to spike the ball. The sophomore also had four serve aces during the four-set win for the 49ers.

Jordan Py, Staff Writer

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The Long Beach State men’s volleyball team kicked off its playoff run by defeating the USC Trojans in four sets on Saturday night at Walter Pyramid.

After splitting the first two matches of the season, both teams winning in their home gym, the familiarity between the two was evident as each set was fast-paced and highly competitive. It was the little things that LBSU did well that helped them move on, winning 25-22, 24-26, 25-18, 25-23.

“I thought we served really well all night long,” head coach Alan Knipe said. “We also served really tough the first two sets — I think we only had two or three serving errors.”

The last time these two teams met on Feb. 24 at the Pyramid, USC was without All-MPSF first team senior Lucas Yoder, and he made his presence felt as he had a match-high 23 kills against the Beach.  

“There is no doubt that Lucas Yoder is one of the best players in our conference, statistically speaking, and he is a big-time player,” Knipe said.

Sophomore outside hitter and MPSF player of the year TJ DeFalco had 12 kills, six digs and set a LBSU playoff record with four service aces to lead the Beach into the next round.

“Our plan was to come in and serve tough,” DeFalco said. “We wanted to get [USC] out of [our] system, and we did that tonight.”

Coach Knipe wasn’t shy when asked if he thought DeFalco was one of the best players in the nation.

“I love having TJ on our team,” Knipe said. “Not even the skill-set parts of the game, but the intangible parts of his game as far as volleyball IQ, out of system plays, reaction plays [and] seeing the play develop before it really is even happening.”

Sophomore setter Josh Tuaniga led the Beach with 43 assists and was proud of the way his team gutted out the victory.

“The playoffs are a whole different animal,” Tuaniga said. “Everybody was on their A-game and we were able to embrace that. USC brought it to us in a few of those sets and we were able to grind through that and find a way to pull out the win.”

With the victory, LBSU moves onto the MPSF semifinals where they will host UC Irvine at the Walter Pyramid on Thursday at 7 p.m.

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