A week after being honored with the All-Big West Team awards, juniors Kyle Ensing and Josh Tuaniga added two more trophies to their mantles. Off The Block awarded Ensing with the Bryan Ivie Award, which is given to the best opposite in the nation, while Tuaniga received the Lloy Ball Award for the nation’s top setter.
“I think this comes down to what we do in the gym here,” Ensing said. “[The team] push me to be my best, and I push them to be their best…It all just comes back to Josh setting the ball for us.”
Ensing helped lead Long Beach through a season full of achievements, including a record 24-game win streak, with 19 three-set sweeps. Long Beach went on a 26-1 record and a number one overall seed in the NCAA tournament. Ensing led the 49ers in kills in 15 of the team’s 27 matches this season, more than any other player on the team. His .357 hitting percentage puts him among the top 15 in the nation.
Ensing’s ability to impact play all over the court allowed him to stand out for the award. His 53 first place votes were more than the next four student-athletes combined. He averaged an impressive 1.48 digs per set while his 31 assists were second among all opposites in the Big West Conference.
The junior opposite also became the 22nd player in Long Beach State history to reach the 1,000 kill mark.
Tuaniga continued his junior season full of accomplishments by taking home the Lloy Ball award for the second straight season.
“It’s exciting, the one thing I would say is the the reason I got this award is because of my team,” Tuaniga said.
He ran the offense for a 49ers team that ranked first in the nation in attacking percentage, hitting .379 as a team and over .400 12 times this season.
Tuaniga’s ability to facilitate an offense which involves all players on the court, and being an offensive weapon himself, made the recognition a no-brainer. His 26 service aces ranked him 10th in the Big West Conference, while he also added 51 kills on the season on a .482 hitting percentage.
“His serving is off the charts,” head coach Alan Knipe said. “It’s something that he has been working on since he was a junior in high school to really become a better server.”
The setter exceeded with most of the votes, receiving 55 first place votes and beating the next setter by 21 votes.
Tuaniga’s leadership on and off the court was a key to him winning the award. He’s asked to participate in nearly every press conference for the team, regardless of its performance.
“One thing people don’t see about Josh is how great of a person he is,” Knipe said. “He is such a great teammate, he makes everyone better out there and shoulders a lot of the emotion and responsibility of the players.”
Next up for Long Beach’s dynamic duo is a semifinal matchup in the NCAA tournament Thursday May 3 at Pauley Pavilion.