Coming off back-to-back five set thrillers over the weekend, the Long Beach State men’s volleyball team was welcomed with a plethora of Big West awards Monday, honoring the team for its work throughout the regular season.
Head coach Alan Knipe was awarded with Big West Coach of the Year, while senior opposite Kyle Ensing earned Big West Player of the Year. Four other starters on the team also earned all-conference selections.
Long Beach finished as Big West regular season champions after defeating the previously top seeded Hawai’i Friday and Saturday.
Coach Knipe described getting the award and credited his team and his staff for the award.
“There’s no way Coach of the Year award goes to a program that doesn’t have guys that are totally invested and are totally bought into what the coaches are selling and working their tail off,” Knipe said. “I would prefer it to be staff of the year. If [the Big West] could come in and watch what my staff does every day, they wouldn’t say ‘just Alan deserves this.’”
Ensing finished the regular season hitting above .400 in 12 matches and over .300 in 17 matches. He was one of four players in the Big West to earn over 300 kills this season, averaging 3.53 kills per set and 4.39 points per set. Ensing was more than an offensive juggernaut this season, but continued to play at a high level on the defensive end.
“This is really fitting, and Kyle had an amazing Big West Conference regular season for us,” Knipe said. “There were some big time matches at times where, I made the comment after the Santa Barbara game: he carried us.”
On a team that carries two AVCA players of the year in DeFalco and Tuaniga, Ensing was able to display why he should be mentioned in the conversation with the top players.
“It’s credited to all the work I have put in over the four years,” Ensing said. “People are starting to see what I can do, and it’s all coming from the guys I play with too. Playing four years with these guys, especially Josh [Tuaniga] and TJ [DeFalco], have helped me grow as a player so much.”
Bryan Aparicio is a fourth year journalism student at Long Beach State. He was originally a business major before transferring to the journalism program because of his love for sports. He currently covers the Long Beach State men’s volleyball team, the reigning national champions and aspires to be a beat writer for a professional team in the future.