The eighth and final week of the 2021 Big West Conference season is upon us and for the Rainbow Warriors, it means senior week. #WarriorBall21 (13-0 overall, 8-0 Big West) checked off one of their preseason goals this past week in Northridge…to be conference regular season champions. UC Santa Barbara and Long Beach State both enter this week 5-3 in conference play and it could come down to a tiebreaker to see who gets that second seed and the other bye in next week’s Outrigger Hotels Men’s Volleyball Championship, presented by the Hawai`i Tourism Authority The number one team in the country, both in the AVCA Coaches and Off the Block Media Polls, UH clinched its first Big West Conference regular season title and first conference regular season title since 1980. The Bows 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 seven 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 wraps up with its top team looking to run the table.
By Tiff Wells.
April 12, 2021 – The last two times Hawai`i was in Northridge…it wasn’t good news. Last March, the Bows found out the CSUN series…then the season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2018, UH lost both matches to the Matadors and that would play a major factor in the Rainbow Warriors being left out of the NCAA Championships.
The Bows aren’t worried about the perfect record, the winning streaks or having the target on their back of being the number one team in the country. They are more concerned on playing their style of volleyball and getting one percent better each and everyday. Seeing them practice last Thursday on the road, the focus was there. It’s a group that enjoys each other’s company and likes to have fun, but knows when it’s time to be serious and get locked in. They are also very respectful and travel well. Leaving last Wednesday, both men’s volleyball and baseball would answer questions from fellow travelers and fans about the team and how the season is going.
With four returning All-Americans, you know what you’re getting from Rado Parapunov, Colton Cowell, Patrick Gasman and Gage Worsley each and every match. All four were there in 2018 when UH went 0-2 at The Matadome. The Bows also knew that CSUN wouldn’t be a walkover here in 2021. Even with a 1-5 record (both overall and in conference), UH knew CSUN has good players and it wouldn’t be an easy series. Take a team lightly and it could lead to a negative result. Up 2-0 in night one, sure there was a hiccup midway through set three. A 6-0 run for CSUN, all on UH’s errors, helped pave the way for the Matadors to win their only set of the series. A nice response for UH in the fourth set to close out the match 3-1 and clinch a share of the conference regular season title.
Over the last few seasons, we’ve heard head coach Charlie Wade say, “It’s not depth if you don’t use it.” That depth was shown in match two when Kana`i Akana replaced Chaz Galloway to begin set two. Primarily used as a serving sub this season, there wasn’t a lot of film on Akana for CSUN to recognize his serve receive and offensive skills. Five kills on nine swings, got all seven serves in and more importantly, went 16-for-16 on serve receive. A very big boost in both matches was freshman middle blocker Guilherme Voss. 7-for-7 attacking with a career-high eight blocks on night 1, followed by a career-high nine kills and two more blocks in the second match led him to receiving this week’s Off The Block National Middle Attacker of the Week award.
Here’s how the match ended:
— Cody Krupp (@CodyWKrupp) April 11, 2021
VC: Wayne Coito, Hawai`i Sports Fans. Special to Cody Krupp and KITV4.
The kill ended the match in a 3-0 sweep, giving UH the outright Big West Conference regular season title…their first Big West regular season title in school history…the first regular season title since…1980. The celebration was subdued. An important milestone for the program and a special moment, but more so just a step along the way as a preseason goal checked off.
Senior week will be vastly different this week for Patrick Gasman, Rado Parapunov, Jackson Van Eekeren, Colton Cowell and perhaps Gage Worsley. All understand the atmosphere won’t be the same, lei will be much fewer and families will be there in spirit. But they are just happy to be playing on senior weekend because last year’s chance was taken away.
While the Big West and MPSF wrap up their regular seasons this week, the other three conferences are in the midst of their postseason tournaments.
Here’s their brackets:
MIVA (Semifinals this Saturday):
EIVA (Quarterfinals this Friday):
Conference Carolinas (Quarterfinals this Tuesday):