March Madness has seen a lot of upsets and some surprise team advancing in the tournament. But for #WarriorBall21 (9-0 overall, 4-0 Big West) they have remained the status quo in men’s collegiate volleyball. The number one team in the country, both in the AVCA Coaches and Off the Block Media Polls, UH continues its place atop the Big West Conference and are just one of two undefeated teams left in men’s collegiate volleyball. For the Rainbow Warriors, the mantra this season is #UnfinishedBusiness. In this week five edition of “Quick Sets,” Tiff Wells takes a look at two storylines each week, either within the UH program or from around the nation. Year four of the Big West Conference season for men’s volleyball continues as its top two teams since the conference sponsored men’s volleyball face off against one another.
By Tiff Wells.
March 29, 2021 – It had been 385 days since Patrick Gasman’s walk-off service ace sent 10,300 Hawai`i fans into a frenzy as UH came from behind to defeat BYU that the ‘Bows would play a home match. We’ve talked about that play quite often. One of the most iconic moments in UH men’s volleyball history. Hawai`i players and most opponents will say, “there’s nothing like playing in the Stan Sheriff Center” (now SimpliFi Arena at The Stan Sheriff). The anticipation of finally having a home match was talked about all week leading up to Friday’s first match (third overall) against UC San Diego. Arguably one of the biggest home court advantages in college sports…gone. For now, no fans allowed for home matches. We’ll see if that is altered by senior weekend (April 16th-17 against UC Irvine)…hopefully by April 22nd-24th (the dates for the Big West Men’s Volleyball Championship presented by the Hawai`i Tourism Authority).
It sure was a different vibe and atmosphere on March 26th for that first home match of the season against UC San Diego. In normal circumstances, fans are allowed in about an hour before the match starts. You smell the food cooking. You hear the crowd talking amongst one another as they make their way to their seats. As the players warmup, you hear the crowd ooh and ahh each time a ball is hit onto the taraflex and it bounces very high into the air. UH players receive loud cheers as PA voice Ben Kiaaina announces the starting lineups and of course, the big hug given by Associate Head Coach Milan Zarkovic. All of that gone. No food, no crowd and for the most part, fist bumps and air high fives have replaced the usual greetings. As you watched the match unfold, it took about three sets for UH to feel comfortable playing at home without the fans in the stands.
Two wins for UH against UC San Diego over the weekend, one a four-set victory and the other a sweep. We know about Rado Parapunov, Patrick Gasman and Colton Cowell. But freshman Chaz Galloway continues to improve and gain confidence, while sophomore setter Jakob Thelle looks very comfortable running the offense here in year two.
Now nine wins on the season (all against ranked teams), just three sets lost, the Rainbow Warriors continue their first-place conference standing as they host rival and second-place Long Beach State (3-1 overall, 3-1 Big West) this Friday and Saturday. The Beach won both matches in their Black and Blue rivalry over the weekend with UC Irvine. But in match two, they lost starting setter Aidan Knipe to an ankle injury. With a converted hitter running the offense, they came from behind to win at UC Irvine. Come Friday, we’ll see who’s starting at setter for LBSU.