Tuaniga’s OT heroics knocks out Ohio States, keeps LBSU title hopes alive

Photo by Jonathan Bates

The National Player of the Year surprised everyone on the court with a play to put Long Beach State in the NCAA Tournament finals.

Josh Tuaniga had a matcher-winning setter dump kill in overtime as Long Beach State defeated the two-time defending NCAA champions Ohio State 25-22, 25-23, 25-27, 32-30 in the VolleyFour on Thursday in Los Angeles.

Tuaniga’s kill ended a 14-point overtime session that featured five previous match-point attempts by the 49ers. In addition, the Big West champions had to fight off a Buckeyes’ match-point that could have extend the match to a decisive fifth game.

Along with his overtime performance, Tuaniga guided the Long Beach State offense to out-hit Ohio State .339 to .326.

Long Beach State had two players finish the match with double-digit kills. All-American opposite Kyle Ensing had a team-high 20 kills on .356 attack percentage, while All-American outside attacker TJ DeFalco had 16 kills and hit .361.

Both Ensing and DeFalco also defensively had 10 digs and three blocks against the Buckeyes to help the 49ers advance to their first NCAA Tournament finals since 2004.

Ohio State opposite Jake Hanes in the loss had both a match-high 21 kills and four aces.

This was the second consecutive NCAA Tournament match that Hanes had at least 20 kills. The Off the Block/Springbak, Inc. Freshman All-American had 22 kills and set a NCAA Tournament single-match record with eight aces in a victory against UC Irvine on Tuesday.

All-American outside attacker Nicolas Szerszen had 16 kills on a team-best .452 attack percentage in his final college match. The senior and three-time MIVA Player of the Year also led the Buckeyes defensively with 12 digs.

Ohio State after losing the first two games rallied to hit a combined .381 in the final two games, including a team-best .419 attack percentage in the fourth-game loss.

The Buckeyes were attempting to become the second program in NCAA Division I-II men’s volleyball history to three-peat as national champions.

This loss also ends the MIVA’s conference streak of winning four straight NCAA championships.

Long Beach State will play the winner of the other semifinal match between UCLA and BYU in the NCAA Tournament finals on Saturday.