After determining no multi-sport or two-sport athlete in the state was going to get the top spot this year, it came down to a choice between single-sport performers of the year Jake Browning (football), Michael Norman (track) and T.J. DeFalco (volleyball). In the end, when a player already is on the U.S. National Team and who led his Huntington Beach High squad to back-to-back 40-0 seasons and three straight mythical national titles, that’s too much for the other two.
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For the first time, the Cal-Hi Sports State Boys Athlete of the Year winner is going to a volleyball player and not a volleyball player who also played another sport.
But going over all of the accomplishments of Huntington Beach volleyball standout T.J. DeFalco, both for what he did as a member of the Oilers and for what he’s doing as the youngest player ever chosen for the 25-man preliminary roster of the U.S. National Team, it’s easy to see why DeFalco was such a strong candidate.
Orange County’s last State Boys Athlete of the Year was U.S. Olympic swimmer Aaron Piersol from Newport Harbor of Newport Beach (2001-02). The last State Boys Athlete of the Year involving volleyball was Chase Budinger from La Costa Canyon of Carlsbad, but he was more known for basketball, the sport he later played in college and professionally.
DeFalco just finished participating for the U.S. national team at the Pan American Games in Toronto and although the team only finished sixth it was valuable international experience for him. Later in August, DeFalco will play with the Boys’ Youth National Team at the FIVB U19 World Championship in Argentina.
Last summer, prior to his senior year at Huntington Beach, DeFalco was MVP and Best Spiker at the 2014 NORCECA Boys’ Under-19 Contintental Championship and also was MVP for the second time at the Boys’ Junior National Championships where the Huntington Beach Club team won its second title.
Despite his obvious talents, it apparently was a much-discussed move among many USA coaches to put the 6-foot-5 outside hitter on the 25-man preliminary roster.
“Putting someone on that list, especially a young man, is a big decision,” USA men’s volleyball coach John Speraw told the Orange County Register’s John Scafetta. “For him to get there demonstrates how optimistic we are about his long-term potential to impact our program.”
“I’m proud of what I’ve done in such little time, but it’s also all about the teams and how we’ve come together,” DeFalco told the Register. “We’ve had good teams where I’ve gotten accolades and have been able to shine. But I wouldn’t have been able to do that if it was one-on-six.”
To say Huntington Beach had “good” teams when DeFalco was leading the charge is a bit of an understatement.
The Oilers will start next season on a state-record 104-game winning streak after back-to-back 40-0 seasons. Both seasons – the two best records in state history – also ended with CIF Southern California Division I regional titles. Of course, going unbeaten through the even more difficult CIF Southern Section playoffs just adds to the legend.
It’s not as if Huntington Beach was weak during DeFalco’s sophomore year, either. The Oilers did lose twice, but won the first of their three straight CIFSS and CIF SoCal titles and ended 34-2. They were No. 1 in the 2013 and 2014 FAB 50 national rankings and were crowned No. 1 in the nation for 2015 by Volleyball Magazine.
There were some anxious moments for DeFalco and the Oilers in this year’s CIFSS D1 final against Corona del Mar of Newport Beach as the Sea Kings pushed them to a fifth game. DeFalco took over in that game with eight kills to finish with 41 for the match and what the Orange County Register called “a ridiculous high (.522) hitting percentage.”
DeFalco ended the season with 457 kills and had a kill percentage of 56 percent.
Up next for DeFalco after his USA national team experience this summer is starting out as a freshman at nearby Long Beach State.
“He’s as good as I’ve seen at this level and I’ve been around as a player and coach for almost 30 years,” Huntington Beach coach Craig Pazanti told the Register’s Damian Calhoun. “He is special. For what he’s done … his will to win, his intensity are unmatched.”
DeFalco also is now unmatched as a boys’ volleyball player being the State Athlete of the Year.
ALL-TIME CAL-HI SPORTS
BOYS STATE ATHLETES OF THE YEAR
(Selected by Cal-Hi Sports)
2014-15 – T.J. DeFalco, Huntington Beach (volleyball)
2013-14 – Nick Nevills, Clovis (football, wrestling)
2012-13 – Khalfani Muhammad, Sherman Oaks Notre Dame (football, track)
2011-12 – Khalfani Muhammad, Sherman Oaks Notre Dame (football, track)
2010-11 – Marqise Lee, Gardena Serra (football, basketball, track)
2009-10 – Robert Woods, Gardena Serra (football, track)
2008-09 – Tyler Gaffney, San Diego Cathedral Catholic (football, baseball)
2007-08 – German Fernandez, Riverbank (cross country, track)
2006-07 – Mike Stanton, Sherman Oaks Notre Dame (football, basketball, baseball)
2005-06 – Chase Budinger, Carlsbad La Costa Canyon (basketball, volleyball)
2004-05 – Drew Shiller, Burlingame (football, basketball, baseball)
2003-04 – Kenny O’Neal, Oakland Skyline (football, track)
2002-03 – Steve Smith, Woodland Hills Taft (football, basketball, track)
2001-02 – Aaron Piersol, Newport Beach Newport Harbor (swimming)
2000-01 – Antwon Guidry, San Jose Leigh (football, basketball, track)
1999-00 – D.J. Williams, Concord De La Salle (football, track)
1998-99 – Chris Lewis, Long Beach Poly (football, volleyball)
1997-98 – C.C. Sabathia, Vallejo (football, basketball, baseball)
1996-97 – Ken-Yon Rambo, Long Beach Poly (football, track)
1995-96 – Chris Claiborne, Riverside J.W. North (football, basketball)
1994-95 – Eric Guerrero, San Jose Independence (wrestling)
1993-94 – McKay Christensen, Fresno Clovis West (football, baseball)
1992-93 – Calvin Harrison, Salinas North Salinas (track, basketball)
1991-92 – Jason Kidd, Alameda St. Joseph (basketball, baseball)
1990-91 – Rob Johnson, El Toro (football, basketball, baseball)
1989-90 – Ryan Hancock, Cupertino Monta Vista (football, baseball)
1988-89 – Lorenzo Neal, Lemoore (football, wrestling)
1987-88 – Adam Keefe, Irvine Woodbridge (basketball, volleyball)
1986-87 – LeRon Ellis, Santa Ana Mater Dei (water polo, basketball, track)
1985-86 – Brian Johnson, Oakland Skyline (football, baseball)
1984-85 – George Porter, Lompoc Cabrillo (basketball, track)
1983-84 – John Williams, L. A. Crenshaw (basketball)
1982-83 – Mike Smith, Hacienda Heights Los Altos (football, basketball, volleyball)
1981-82 – Jim McCullough, Hemet (football, wrestling)
1980-81 – Kevin Willhite, Rancho Cordova (football, track)
1979-80 – Darryl Strawberry, L.A. Crenshaw (basketball, baseball)
1978-79 – John Elway, Granada Hills (football, baseball)
1977-78 – Jesse Vasallo, Mission Viejo (swimming)
1976-77 – Brian Goodell, Mission Viejo (swimming)
1975-76 – Greg Louganis, El Cajon Valhalla & Santa Ana (diving)
1974-75 – Bill Cartwright, Elk Grove (basketball)
1973-74 – Tim Shaw, Long Beach Wilson (water polo, swimming)
1972-73 – Lonnie Shelton, Bakersfield Foothill (football, track)
1971-72 – Scott McGregor, El Segundo (baseball)
1970-71 – Anthony Davis, San Fernando (football, baseball)
1969-70 – James McAlister, Pasadena Blair (football, track)
1968-69 – Jeff Burroughs, Long Beach Wilson (football, baseball)
1967-68 – Mark Spitz, Santa Clara (water polo, swimming)
1966-67 – Mickey Cureton, Compton Centennial (football)
1965-66 – Tim Danielson, Chula Vista (track)
1964-65 – Paul Wilson, Downey Warren (track)
1963-64 – Don Schollander, Santa Clara (water polo, swimming)
1962-63 – Tommie Smith, Lemoore (football, basketball, track)
1961-62 – Forrest Beaty, Glendale Hoover (track)
1960-61 – Ulis Williams, Compton (track)
1959-60 – Dennis Ralston, Bakersfield (tennis)
1958-59 – Dale Story, Orange (track)
1957-58 – Willie Davis, L. A. Roosevelt (basketball, baseball, track)
1956-57 – Bill Kilmer, Azusa Citrus (football, basketball, baseball)
1955-56 – Fred Lacour, S.F. St. Ignatius (basketball)
1954-55 – Dick Bass, Vallejo (football)
1953-54 – Don Bowden, San Jose Lincoln (track)
1952-53 – Ronnie Knox, Santa Monica (football)
1951-52 – Marty Keough, Pomona (football, basketball, baseball)
1950-51 – Charlie Powell, San Diego (football, baseball)
1949-50 – Lang Stanley, L.A. Jefferson (track)
1948-49 – John Henry Johnson, Pittsburg (football, basketball, track)
1947-48 – Bob Mathias, Tulare (football, track)
1946-47 – Bill McColl, San Diego Hoover (football, basketball, baseball)
1945-46 – George Stanich, Sacramento (basketball, baseball, track)
1944-45 – Jackie Jensen, Oakland (football, baseball)
1943-44 – Bill Sharman, Porterville (football, basketball, baseball)
1942-43 – Glenn Davis, La Verne Bonita (football, baseball)
1941-42 – Irv Noren, Pasadena (basketball, baseball)
1940-41 – Tommie Fears, Los Angeles Manual Arts (football)
1939-40 – Howie Dallmar, San Francisco Lowell (basketball, baseball)
1938-39 – Jim Jurkovich, Fresno (football, track)
1937-38 – Frankie Albert, Glendale (football, baseball, tennis)
1936-37 – Jackie Robinson, Pasadena Muir (football, basketball, baseball)
1935-36 – Bobby Doerr, Los Angeles Fremont (pro baseball)
1934-35 – Ted Williams, San Diego Hoover (baseball)
1933-34 – Hank Luisetti, San Francisco Galileo (basketball)
1932-33 – Don Budge, Oakland University (tennis)
1931-32 – Corney Johnson, Los Angeles (track)
1930-31 – Frank Sobrero, Oakland (football, basketball, baseball)
Note: List continues back to 1890-91 in the Cal-Hi Sports State Record Book & Almanac. All selections prior to 1978-79 done retroactively through research by our founder, the late Nelson Tennis.