Long Beach outside DeFalco named college men’s volleyball National Player of Decade

Photo by Fabiana Huffaker

The prestigious honors continue to come in for Long Beach State outside attacker TJ DeFalco even after finishing his college career.

A nationwide voting committee selected DeFalco as the NCAA Division I-II men’s volleyball National Player of the Decade that was unveiled Monday on Off the Block.

The four-time All-American and two-time National Player of the Year led Long Beach State to back-to-back NCAA championships in 2018-19. In addition, the Beach during DeFalco’s college career won two conference titles and advanced to at least the NCAA Tournament semifinals in all four seasons.

DeFalco concluded his time at Long Beach State with a program record 183 aces and was fifth in school history with 1,661 career kills.

As a sophomore, DeFalco was sixth in the nation with a 3.99 kills per game average en route to winning the National Player of the Year and his first of three consecutive Karch Kiraly Awards as the nation’s top outside attacker. He also had 12 kills on a .429 attack percentage and a team-high nine digs to help Long Beach State beat Hawai’i in the MPSF Tournament finals.

DeFalco the following year led Long Beach State its first national championship in almost 30 years and was in the nation’s top 20 with both a 3.62 kills per game average and a .377 attack percentage. The outside attacker had at least 15 kills in 10 matches that season, including 18 kills while hitting .419 and a team-high 12 digs in the NCAA Tournament finals against UCLA.

In his final college season, DeFalco continued to be among the nation’s leaders with both a career-best .397 attack percentage and a 3.52 kills per game average. He also had a combined 37 kills on a .508 attack percentage and five aces in Long Beach State’s two NCAA Tournament victories and was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.

The voting committee for the National Player of the Decade was comprised of volleyball coaches and volleyball media members from around the nation.

The top-five vote-getters were selected as finalists, while the player with the most votes was named the overall award winner.

DeFalco received 44 votes and beat the runner-up former Ohio State All-American outside attacker Nicolas Szerszen by 12 votes.

Former BYU All-American outside attacker Taylor Sander garnered 24 votes to finish in third place, while former USC All-American setter Micah Christenson came in fourth place with 17 votes. DeFalco’s teammate and former Long Beach State All-American setter Josh Tuaniga rounded-out the top five with 11 votes.

Off the Block coordinated the National All-Decade Awards. Along with the National Player of the Decade, Off the Block presented the National Program of the Decade, the National Team of the Decade, National Coach of the Decade and the National All-Decade Teams.

Off the Block is a national award winning website that was established in 2011 and is the nation’s leader college men’s volleyball coverage.

National Player of the Decade voting results

1. TJ DeFalco, Long Beach State — 44 votes
2. Nicolas Szerszen, Ohio State — 32 votes
3. Taylor Sander, BYU — 24 votes
4. Micah Christenson, USC — 17 votes
5. Josh Tuaniga, Long Beach State — 11 votes
6. Thomas Jaeschke, Loyola — 11 votes
7. Erik Shoji, Stanford — 9 votes
T-8. Jeff Jendryk, Loyola — 5 votes
T-8. Aaron Russell, Penn State — 5 votes
T-10. Micah Ma’a, UCLA — 4 votes
T-10. Jonas Umlauft, Hawai’i — 4 votes
12. Taylor Crabb, Long Beach State — 3 votes
13. Daenan Gyimah, UCLA — 1 vote