Week Eight of the 2021 Big West Conference season is upon us and for the Rainbow Warriors, they are now in the drivers seat. Three losses clear in the loss column of UC Santa Barbara, Long Beach State AND UC San Diego…three teams #WarriorBall21 (11-0 overall, 6-0 Big West) owns the tiebreaker over. No other team can get eight league wins. 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…and history.
By Tiff Wells.
April 8, 2021 – The last time Hawai`i was in Northridge, they were getting ready to start the 2020 Big West Conference regular season. On their minds was starting out conference play strong and not trying to remember what happened in 2018…when UH unexpectedly lost both matches, both by sweeps, en route to being left out of the NCAA Tournament. The Bows found out their non-conference match with Pepperdine was being moved up by a day, that all matches on the road trip would have limited crowd numbers and then would soon learn their road trip…and season, would be cancelled. Preparing for CSUN and Pepperdine quickly changed to just getting home to the island as quick and as safe as possible.
Originally, Hawai`i was to play at CSUN on the weekend of March 12th. Like Long Beach State, CSUN didn’t resume spring sports until the beginning of February and didn’t begin to practice until mid-February. Because of this, UH flipped their schedule and moved the UC Santa Barbara series from April to that weekend in March and then the CSUN series from March into April to accommodate. It’s 2021, just roll with the schedule changes and as All-American and current Big West Player of the Week Rado Parapunov says, “when and where, we’ll be there.”
It’s UH’s third road trip of the season, first since their 3-0 weekend at UC Santa Barbara on March 11-13. Through TSA, the Rainbow Warriors bring with them the nation’s longest win streak (12, tied with Daemen) and the nation’s longest road winning streak (13). That 13-match road winning streak is also a school record dating back to 2019. The Bows haven’t won in Northridge since 2016 (the teams played in Honolulu in both the 2017 and 2019 seasons), which also happened to be the last time UH won both matches against the Matadors.
The Matadome is a different venue. It’s not even a dome. It’s in a kinesiology building and if you’ve watched Karate Kid, part of the movie was filmed in there. And for whatever reason it may be, UH teams have had some difficulties playing and winning there over the years.
CSUN comes in 1-5 overall and in the Big West, losing four-straight matches. They have a very good middle blocker (Sophomore Daniel Wetter) who is fifth in the nation, hitting .462 on the season. But we can’t forget UH’s own middle blocker, Patrick Gasman, who is leading the nation with his .500 hitting percentage. The Matadors are UH’s first unranked opponent this season. Also look for Patrick Gasman (blocks) and Rado Parapunov (kills and service aces) to continue their rise up the Hawai`i record books for blocks.
One win this weekend gets UH at least a share of a conference title. A sweep over CSUN would give UH their first regular season conference title…a first since 1980 (10-0, won the WCVC under Dave Shoji). Yes the Bows won the MPSF under Mike Wilton in 1995, 1996 and 1998, with a tie for first in 2001. But those were Pacific Division titles, not league-wide titles. Even with an opponent who is struggling and unranked, there is a lot for the Bows to play for this week.
On the national scene, second-ranked BYU (16-2 overall, 16-2 MPSF) heads to No. 6 UCLA (13-4, 13-4) for a pair of matches Friday and Saturday. The teams split the first series back in Provo in February. BYU brings in an 11-match win streak and this series could have a factor in whether it’s UCLA or Pepperdine that gets the 2 or 3 seed in the MPSF Tournament, but also could factor into the at-large considerations for the NCAA Men’s Volleyball Championship.