COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (May 31, 2019) – On May 4, T.J. DeFalco, Kyle Ensing and Josh Tuaniga were starting with the Long Beach State men’s volleyball team in the NCAA championship match in Long Beach.
On May 31, they were starting with the U.S. Men’s National Team against world No. 1 Brazil in the opening preliminary-round match of the 2019 FIVB Volleyball Nations League in Katowice, Poland.
Things proved tougher at the international level and Brazil swept the U.S. Men, 25-22, 25-22, 25-23.
Things don’t get any easier on Saturday when the U.S. will play defending World Champion Poland at 8 a.m. PT. All U.S. VNL matches are being streamed live on FloVolleyball.tv, a subscription service.
“There are some specific areas of the game we weren’t good at tonight,” U.S. Head Coach John Speraw said. “Regardless of whether we were young and inexperienced, I want them to play and compete better. We served the ball well, we put a lot of pressure on them; but our transition was really poor.”
Although DeFalco and Ensing have played with the U.S. Men’s National Team before, Tuaniga made his debut as did opposite Kyle Russell and setter Micah Ma’a. Middle blocker Mitch Stahl made his VNL debut with the team.
DeFalco led the U.S. Men in scoring with 11 kills and two aces. Olympian Taylor Sander added 11 points on 11 kills and opposite Ensing had 10 points on eight kills and two blocks. Stahl had nine points on five kills, three blocks and one ace.
“We have a new team. We were a little bit nervous,” said Sander, the team captain. “We had some chances, but we were not so good in transition. I’m sure we will get better. It was the first match for a couple of guys. All of us will learn from that experience.”
The U.S. Men led in kills (42) and aces (4-0) while the teams tied in blocks (5-5). 28 scoring errors proved costly for the U.S. while Brazil committed 17.
Brazil’s Ricardo Lucarelli led all scorers with 14 points on 14 kills.
U.S. STARTERS VS BRAZIL
Outside hitters: T.J. DeFalco and Taylor Sander
Middle blockers: Jeff Jendryk and Mitch Stahl
Setter: Josh Tuaniga
Opposite: Kyle Ensing
Libero: Erik Shoji
Substitutes: Micah Ma’a (S), Kyle Russell (Opp),
U.S. STATISTICS V BRAZIL
Kills: DeFalco 11, Sander 11, Ensing 8, Stahl 5, Jendryk 5, Tuaniga 1, Russell 1
Blocks: Stahl 3, Ensing 2
Aces: DeFalco 2, Stahl 1, Tuaniga 1