Outside attacker TJ DeFalco in the biggest conference match of the year so far showed why he is the defending National Player of the Year and a favorite win the award again this season.
DeFalco had both a match-high five aces and 22 kills on a .326 attack percentage as No. 1/1 Long Beach State defeated No. 4/4 UC Irvine 22-25, 25-15, 25-16, 21-25, 15-9 on Friday in Long Beach, California.
Long Beach State out-hit UC Irvine .281 to .197, including having a match-best .500 attack percentage in the decisive fifth game. In addition, DeFalco in that final game had four kills and zero attack errors.
Along with his offensive performance, DeFalco had a solo block in the fifth game and led the 49ers for the match with five blocks.
DeFalco also was one of five 49ers to have at least five digs against the Anteaters. Libero Jordan Molina finished with a match-high 14 digs, while All-American setter Josh Tuaniga added 11 digs.
UC Irvine outside attacker Aaron Koubi in the loss had a team-high 21 kills on a .410 attack percentage.
With this victory, Long Beach State remains the only undefeated team in the nation and extends its first-place lead in the Big West to two matches ahead of second-place UC Irvine.
The 49ers entered the match having lost four games the entire season. UC Irvine also was the first team this season to force Long Beach State to a fifth game.
The two teams will concluded their home-and-home series as they travel to Irvine, California for a match on Saturday.