Any jitters for the Long Beach State freshmen making their NCAA Tournament debut was near non-existent in the play-in match.
Freshman All-American outside attacker TJ DeFalco had a match-high 14 kills and hit .619 as the No. 4 seed Long Beach State swept the No. 5 seed Erskine 25-14, 27-25, 25-20 on Tuesday in University Park, Pennsylvania.
DeFalco, the runner-up for the 2016 Karch Kiraly Award winner, was one of three 49ers with at least eight kills in the team’s first NCAA Tournament match since 2008. Freshman All-American opposite Kyle Ensing had 11 kills, while outside attacker Eric Ensing had eight kills and zero attack errors on a .6.15 attack percentage.
Freshman All-American setter Josh Tuaniga guided Long Beach State to out-hit Erskine .582 to .183, including hitting a match-best .722 and having zero attack errors in the third game. In addition, the 49ers committed seven attack errors in the match — 12 fewer than the Flying Fleet.
Erskine outside attacker Mike Michelau, the 2016 Conference Carolinas Player of the Year, in the loss had a team-high 14 kills. Outside attacker Roberto Perez Vargas also had 11 kills against the 49ers.
Long Beach State trailed early in the third game before rallying to tie the game and then went on a 11-5 run to take the lead and eventually complete the sweep.
Erskine led midway through the second game and fought off a game-point to force overtime before losing the four-point overtime on an attack error.
This was the second consecutive year that a Conference Carolinas school has forced a team to overtime in the NCAA Tournament.
Ensing and DeFalco each had a game-high five kills in the opening game. In addition, the 49ers had five attack errors and hit .429 in the 11-point win.
Long Beach State will advance to play the No. 1 seed BYU in the NCAA Tournament semifinals on Thursday. The 49ers and Cougars split their two-match conference series during the regular season.
Erskine ends its season in the NCAA Tournament play-in match for the second time in the last three years. The Flying Fleet reached the NCAA Tournament after winning the Conference Carolinas Tournament.