NCAA Tournament finals to follow tonight: Hawai’i vs. Long Beach State

Photo courtesy of Hawai’i athletics

Four months of matches have led to this — the NCAA Tournament finals.

The top-two tournament seeds Hawai’i and Long Beach State will meet with the national championship on the line. Check out what to know about this title match and how to follow it live.

No. 1 seed Hawai’i (28-2, 8-2 Big West) vs. No. 2 seed Long Beach State (27-2, 10-0 Big West)
Match vitals:
5 p.m. in Long Beach, California
Follow live: Live stats, Live video, Radio feed, In-match tweets
How they got here: Hawai’i earned the No. 1 overall seed to the NCAA Tournament after winning the Big West Tournament and defeated Lewis in the NCAA Tournament semifinals. Long Beach State earned the at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament and defeated Pepperdine in the NCAA Tournament semifinals.
Season series: Long Beach State leads 2-1 (Long Beach State won in five games on April 12 and April 13; Hawai’i won in five games in the Big West Tournament finals on April 20)
Series history: Long Beach State leads 47-43
NCAA Tournament titles: Hawai’i (2002 vacated); Long Beach State (1991, 2018)
Previous NCAA Tournament appearances: Hawai’i (1995-96, 2000, 2002, 2015, 2017); Long Beach State (1970, 1973, 1990-91, 1999, 20004, 2008, 2016-18)
NCAA Tournament record: Hawai’i (3-5); Long Beach State (16-9)
What to know: The two best teams throughout the regular season have made it the NCAA Tournament finals. It now all comes down to one match to decide if Long Beach State will repeat as national champions or if Hawai’i will win its first title in 17 years. Both Long Beach State and Hawai’i enter the finals not only with the best offenses in the nation but with the best offenses in recent college men’s volleyball history. Long Beach State last season en route to winning the championship had a .375 attack percentage and set the NCAA record during the 25-point rally scoring era. Hawai’i leads the nation this season with a .439 attack percentage, while Long Beach State is second best in the country hitting .413. Both Hawai’i setter Joe Worsley and Long Beach State setter Josh Tuaniga also guided their teams to hit more than .350 in their four-game semifinal victories on Thursday. This match also will feature two of the top pin-hitter combinations in the nation. Hawai’i opposite Rado Parapunov, the 2019 Bryan Ivie Award winner as the nation’s top opposite, is in the country’s top 10 both with a 4.08 kills per game average and a .426 attack percentage. Parapunov, though, has not finished with more than a .205 attack percentage in any of the three previous meetings against the 49ers. All-American outside attacker Stijn van Tilburg has the second-best attack percentage in the nation at .461 and is in the nation’s top 10 with a 3.86 kills per game average. van Tilburg also had a match-high 25 kills and zero errors on a .543 attack percentage as Hawai’i defeated Long Beach State in five games in the Big West Tournament finals. Long Beach State outside attacker TJ DeFalco is among the nation’s leaders averaging 3.46 kills per game. The two-time AVCA National Player of the Year had 17 kills while hitting .500 in the NCAA Tournament semifinals victory against Pepperdine. Both DeFalco and Long Beach State opposite Kyle Ensing are also in the nation’s top five averaging more than 0.50 aces per game. Ensing finished with a season-high six aces in the semifinals and has an ace in all but one match this season. In addition, the Big West Player of the year is in the nation’s top 20 with a 3.53 attack percentage. This will be the fourth meeting between Hawai’i and Long Beach State in the last three weeks. All three previous meetings have gone to a decisive fifth game. The combined point margin between the two teams in the decisive fifth game is zero points.