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Quick Sets: Long Beach State vs. Hawaii Recap

#NoiseGate. #VolumeGate. The gate doors swung open each night in favor of Long Beach State as they won the first set. But for #WarriorBall21 (11-0 overall, 6-0 Big West), they showed some moxie and grit as they came from behind to win both nights. 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 six 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 team closes in on a regular season title.  

By Tiff Wells

April 5, 2021 – Two top seven teams in the country. Two teams that have been the standard for men’s volleyball in the Big West Conference since the conference began sponsoring the sport in 2018. One combined loss in conference play between the two of them. One is the two-time defending conference regular season AND national champions. The other, perfect on the season and trying to protect home court once again. A long history of a rivalry between the two schools that specifically for this sport, has picked up over the last few years. Some of the names from years past were gone due to graduation, but this still had the makings for two good matches of men’s volleyball. And there was a lot of great volleyball within those two matches. But for the most part, all anyone wants to discuss is what happened in set two of night two…a set that took one hour and four minutes to complete.

As discussed last week, Long Beach State has what Hawai`i wants. A conference regular season championship. A national championship. In sets two and three on that first night (UH won 25-13, 25-14), UH was out to make a statement. Sure, set four went into extra time, but the Bows found a way to win. Three players with ten or more kills for UH, Colton Cowell went career with being in on eight blocks and Gage Worsley stepped up with a season-high 14 digs. Yes, UH hit a season-low .265, but their defense stepped up with a season-high 15.5 blocks and held LBSU to an .072 hitting percentage. Advantage Hawai`i after night one.

Getting some help from UC San Diego with their win against CSUN earlier in the day, the magic number for the Bows to clinch a share of their first Big West Conference regular season title was reduced. With a second win over The Beach in as many nights, that number would be lowered down to one.

In warmups the previous night, Cowell sustained an ankle injury, but played the entire match. He didn’t take part in the warmup festivities and we knew something was up. Then we get word about a half hour before the match that he would not play. Changing the serve receive pattern, losing an All-American pin hitter. As we’ve heard numerous times from Head Coach Charlie Wade, “it’s not depth if you don’t use it.” Freshman Spyros Chakas made his fourth career start (first at home) and held his own (five kills, one ace, five digs, four blocks and went 26-of-27 on serve receive). Season high in kills for Rado Parapunov (27), career high in kills for Patrick Gasman (17) and career highs for both Jakob Thelle (59 assists) and Gage Worsley (17 digs). Another three-plus hour match between UH and LBSU went the way of the Bows and now UH is one win away from at least a share of a conference regular season title. At 6-0 in the Big West, UH is three losses clear of second-place UC Santa Barbara (5-3) with four left to play.

Per the UH record books, they won three MPSF Pacific Division titles (1995, 1996, 1998) and shared a fourth (2001). In 1980, UH went 10-0 en route to the WCVC title. This coming Friday and Saturday here in 2021, we could see another bit of history made for the Rainbow Warriors.

Here’s a look at the Big West Conference standings, click here.

The Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association enters its conference tournament. For a look at their bracket, click here.