LONG BEACH, Calif. – Several current and former members of the Long Beach State Men’s Volleyball program have a busy summer coming up as three current players made the 2023 Men’s U21 NORCECA Pan America Cup roster, which is led by current volunteer assistant coach Andy Read, while four Long Beach Legends and two current players made a 2023 Volleyball Nations League (VNL) roster.
Read will be serving as the head coach for the U.S. Men’s U21 Volleyball National Team after having led the 2022 Men’s U21 Team to Pan Am Cup gold a year ago. The 20-man roster includes three current LBSU players in Chris Connelly, Dane Hillis, and Island Doty.
Connelly, a libero out of Naples, Fla., redshirted for the Beach during the 2023 season, as did outside hitter Dane Hillis. A native of San Clemente, Calif., Hillis played in 34 sets for LBSU during the 2022 season and finished the year with three digs, two aces, and a pair of assists.
Doty is a 6-foot-5 setter from Colorado Springs, Colo., who played in four matches last season and made one start. The true freshman concluded his rookie campaign with 23 assists, six digs, five blocks, three kills, and one ace.
In addition, Long Beach State also has six different players on three separate VNL rosters. On Team USA, the Beach are represented by current libero Mason Briggs, as well as alumni TJ DeFalco, Kyle Ensing, and Josh Tuaniga.
Briggs is coming off an exceptional junior campaign in which he was named to the AVCA All-America First Team for the second time in his career. He finished the season with a 2.38 digs per set average to lead The Big West and rank fifth in the nation. He recorded 11 double-figure dig performances including a season-high 18-dig showing at No. 15 CSUN on April 7. Most recently, Briggs won the Off the Block 2023 Erik Shoji Award which is given to the nation’s best libero.
Rounding out the USA VNL roster are DeFalco, Ensing, and Tuaniga. The trio concluded their collegiate careers in 2019 as one of the most decorated classes in Long Beach State Men’s Volleyball history. They led the Beach to a 108-15 (.878) record over four years, two NCAA National Championships, four-straight NCAA Final Four appearances, and a perfect 43-0 record inside the Walter Pyramid.
DeFalco was a two-time AVCA National Player of the Year and a four-time AVCA First Team All-American. He finished his LBSU career as the program’s all-time service aces leader with 183 and is ranked fifth all-time in kills with 1,661.
Ensing was the 2019 Big West Conference Player of the Year and a two-time AVCA First Team All-American. He concluded his career at Long Beach State with 1,421 career kills to rank 10th all-time at the Beach.
Tuaniga was the 2018 AVCA National Player of the Year and a three-time AVCA First Team All-American. He was named NCAA Tournament MVP in 2018 and finished his career at the Beach with 4,607 career assists to rank fourth all-time in program history.
Long Beach State also has players representing the Beach on both the German and Bulgarian VNL rosters.
Current LBSU middle blocker Simon Torwie, who grew up in Frankfurt, Germany, made the Germany VNL roster after leading the nation in blocks per set with 1.60 during his junior season at the Beach. Torwie was named to the AVCA All-America Second Team and was named Big West Defensive Player of the Week five times. He led the Beach in blocks 17 times, including a career-high 10-block performance at UC San Diego on March 31. He tallied a career-best 13 kills versus No. 12 Loyola Chicago, while hitting a season-best .765 (13-0-17).
For the second-straight year, Alex Nikolov was named to the Bulgarian National Team. The former LBSU player who played for the Beach in 2022 had a historic rookie season as he was named AVCA National Player of the Year, becoming the first-ever freshman to earn that honor. Nikolov finished time at Long Beach State with a slew of honors including AVCA Freshman of the Year, All-Big West First Team, Big West Freshman of the Year, and was named to the NCAA All-Tournament team. The Sofia, Bulgaria native concluded the year with 0.58 aces per set to rank second in the nation, while registering 4.63 kills per set to lead The Big West and rank third in the NCAA.