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Long Beach State’s Josh Tuaniga sets a high standard

Long Beach State’s sophomore setter has his hands in 49ers’ success.

Sophomore setter Josh Tuaniga has LBSU’s eyes set on its first NCAA Championship since 1991. Tuaniga led the nation with 11.13 assists per set.

Sophomore setter Josh Tuaniga has LBSU’s eyes set on its first NCAA Championship since 1991. Tuaniga led the nation with 11.13 assists per set.

Benjamin Hammerton

Benjamin Hammerton

Sophomore setter Josh Tuaniga has LBSU’s eyes set on its first NCAA Championship since 1991. Tuaniga led the nation with 11.13 assists per set.

Matthew Simon, Sports Editor

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When you attend a Long Beach State men’s volleyball match, sophomore setter Josh Tuaniga is easy to spot.

Whether it’s his jaw-dropping passes or his pregame dancing, Tuaniga has become a force for the team heading into the NCAA Tournament Final Four as the No. 2-seed behind defending champion Ohio State.

With his incredible feel for the game and unpredictable passing, Tuaniga’s hands have allowed the team to prosper as it finished the season with a .371 hitting percentage to lead the nation.

Tuaniga, the 2017 National Setter of the Year, led the nation in assists, finishing with an impressive 11.13 assists per set.

The sophomore put on a show for those in attendance at an April 22 game at Walter Pyramid during LBSU’s MPSF final match-up against Hawai’i, as he made unbelievable cross-court passes and stifled the Rainbow Warriors defense with his tip moves that gave the 49ers easy points.

When it comes to his success, his teammates aren’t surprised about what he’s been able to accomplish as an underclassman.

“He’s a hard worker,” senior outside hitter Andrew Whitt said. “He comes in early every day always ready to prep. He comes in early and stays late. He’s a good reflection of what our team’s about.”

Along with his uncanny feel for the game, Tuaniga credits his family for his creativity on the court. The setter knows that having fun is important when you’re an athlete.

“As an athlete, we really have to hold on to the reason that we play sports and the reason we do things,” Tuaniga said. “It’s all about the fun of the sport, for me.”

Tuaniga’s family taught him the importance of loving what you do at a young age.

“I trained pretty hard when I was growing up,” Tuaniga said. “But, my parents instilled in me like, “Hey, you got to first love what you’re doing and in order for people I think to as successful as they can be and reach their full potential, they not only have to work for it — they got to love what they’re doing and appreciate what they’re doing.”

It’s Tuaniga’s personality that has not only made those off the court grow to love his game, but his outgoing and fun personality has brought his team closer together as they have become a national championship contender.

“Playing with Josh is awesome,” senior middle blocker Amir Lugo-Rodriguez said. “He’s a great guy, he’s one of those guys that everyone is able to be really close to, so it’s really fun to be able play with one of your best friends on the team.”

Although he has an infectious personality, there’s no question about the setter’s competitiveness as he uses last year’s loss in the semifinals to drive the team further this season.

“We take what happened that year — what we did right and what we did wrong – and we learn from it,” Tuaniga said. “We take what we enjoyed about it and what we need to work on, we make sure that’s the focus.”

While Tuaniga is in the middle of his collegiate career, he has put a lot of thought into what he will do when he graduates.

“One of the things I tell myself is I want to play for as long as I can,” Tuaniga said. “I love the sport so much, I love playing the sport so much. One thing I’ve noticed is I can’t really get away from it. When my little sister has practice, I want to go and that’s kind of looking towards, maybe I might be a part of a coaching staff or a club.”

Now, as the team prepares for a rematch against BYU in today’s NCAA semifinal match-up, Tuaniga will be looked upon to lead the team to the NCAA Championship match.

“He’s the one directing and driving our offense as a team,” Whitt said.  “So, having those positive vibes out there on the court is something we definitely connect to and it’s easy to hold onto to keep us moving forward in the match.”

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