St. Francis schedules match vs. defending champs Long Beach

Photo courtesy of St. Francis athletics

[Editor’s note: Off the Block in collaboration with the EIVA is presenting The Top 15 EIVA Non-Conference Matches. This list spotlights the best non-conference matches scheduled for EIVA teams in 2019 and will be the first time several of these matches have been publicly announced. St. Francis versus Long Beach State is ranked No. 11 on the list.]

Coach Mike Rumbaugh isn’t shying away from a tough non-conference match — he may have even scheduled the toughest possible match for St. Francis.

St. Francis announced that it will travel across the country next season for a road non-conference match against the defending NCAA champions Long Beach State on March 8.

The 49ers opened the 2018 season with a 24-match winning streak and then won their first national championship in more than 25 years. Long Beach State also set a NCAA record during the 25-point rally scoring era with a .375 attack percentage, including hitting .542 in an early-season sweep versus St. Francis.

That sweep was the second all-time meeting between St. Francis and Long Beach State. The Red Flash almost upset then-No. 4 Long Beach State in 2017 before losing in a fourth-game overtime.

This upcoming match will be first non-neutral site match in the series history.

St. Francis playing without multiple projected starters in its lineup last season finished in seventh place in the EIVA. The Red Flash, though, had a non-conference win against a top-10 ranked team and in the regular season beat both teams that reached the EIVA Tournament finals.

While St. Francis will be without a majority of its starters from the 2018 season, Long Beach State returns three All-Americans.

All-American outside attacker TJ DeFalco, the 2017 AVCA National Player of the Year, and All-American opposite Kyle Ensing were both among the national leaders last season averaging more than 3.50 kills per game. Both players also spent the offseason playing for the United States in the FIVB Volleyball Nations League.

All-American setter Josh Tuaniga returns for his senior season after being named the 2018 AVCA National Player of the Year and the NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player.

St. Francis will play Long Beach State as part of a two-match West Coast road trip versus Big West teams. It also will play a non-conference match against CSUN on March 6.