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.
April 1, 2021 – The last time these two teams met in Honolulu…
The last time UH and the Beach met at “The Stan,” it was EPIC! 🏆 pic.twitter.com/qMxrq8s3gE
— Hawaii Men’s Volleyball (@HawaiiMensVB) March 30, 2021
Hawai`i. Long Beach State. So much history in this series, both on the men’s and women’s side. Since the Big West Conference first sponsored men’s volleyball beginning with the 2018 season, they have gone 1-2 in both the regular season standings AND conference tournament finishes. 2018…LBSU won both the regular season and tournament. 2019…LBSU again won the regular season but it was UH who broke through to win its first ever conference tournament. In both of those years, it was Long Beach State who won the national championship, beating Hawai`i in the 2019 final. In 2020, UH began the season 15-1 while Long Beach State was 10-1. Who knows how the season would have gone for both teams and remember, the conference tournament was slated to be at UC Irvine. These two programs have been THE standards of the conference.
That 2019 season was something special. So many First-Team All-Americans on the floor. Some of those players you just knew you’d eventually see on an Olympic team. Sold out crowds. Three of the four matches went to five sets. Some of the hottest tickets around town. Sustained loud noises from the fans going from pregame warmups through the postgame celebrations. And of course, a lot of high-level volleyball. That 2019 season…you just knew it would be a Hawai`i-Long Beach State final. Everyone else was playing just to make a National Semifinal. These two teams knew they’d be playing in the championship match.
#UnfinishedBusiness is the mantra for this Hawai`i team. An important series for both teams this weekend here in Honolulu. Both teams come in on win streaks. 7th ranked Long Beach State (3-1 overall, 3-1 BWC) has won 3-straight. Top-ranked Hawai`i (9-0, 4-0) sits a game up on The Beach in standings; both teams have six remaining conference matches. A weekend sweep by the ‘Bows could put a lot of distance between them and the rest of the league; it also would put UH at the doorstep of winning the regular season conference title. Long Beach State could boost their resume with a split and also put them on notice to the rest of the nation that even though they are somewhat of a young team, they should still be considered in that top tier of teams vying for a National Championship.
The Beach did sweep the conference awards this past Monday: Player of the Week (Spencer Olivier, outside hitter), Defensive Player of the Week (Simon Andersen) and Freshman of the Week (Clarke Godbold). A big question still to be answered is the health of starting setter, freshman Aidan Knipe. He injured an ankle during set two of the second match at UC Irvine. He didn’t play the final three sets, all three won by The Beach. He’s the only true setter listed on Long Beach’s roster.
UH has won nine-straight conference home matches dating back to 2018. The last conference team to win in Honolulu? Long Beach State. LBSU has what UH is wanting…conference and national hardware. Two more chapters of this rivalry to be written tomorrow and Saturday night.
𝐓𝐇𝐄 𝐌𝐀𝐓𝐂𝐇-𝐔𝐏: 🌈 vs. 🏖
Ntl. Rank: #1
RPI Rank: #1
Big West🏆: 2019
Ntl. Rank: #7
RPI Rank: #13
Big West🏆: 2018 pic.twitter.com/btDgN2Puj2
— Hawaii Men’s Volleyball (@HawaiiMensVB) March 31, 2021