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Quick Sets: Senior Weekend

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 become the first team in program history to finish with an undefeated regular season.  

By Tiff Wells

April 15, 2021 – There are senior weekends. And then there are senior weekends celebrated out here on the island. They can’t even be compared with any other school, any other state. The state of Hawai`i knows how to send out its seniors. From park leagues to high schools to colleges, no one else does it better. Fans from around the island and state, and from off island make their way to SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center to give thanks to the senior who have done so much for the program and community. It’s a little different as the only Division I school in the state. You’re representing the state, playing for something way bigger than yourself. The abundance of lei, pictures, autographs, the video montage, sometimes a team performance and even a proposal…it all makes senior night special. The seniors want to go out with a win and the underclassmen want to do whatever it takes to ensure that does indeed happen. But this year, well, it’s different.
Just like 2019, this won’t be the last time these six (Rado Parapunov, Patrick Gasman, Colton Cowell, Jackson Van Eekeren, Gage Worsley and student assistant James Anastassiades) will play on the teraflex.

Picture courtesy of University of Hawai`i Athletics

UH is hosting the Big West Men’s Volleyball Championship presented by Hawai`i Tourism Authority that begins next week Thursday. And just like 2019, UH has a bye into Friday’s semifinals. 2020 was different and a year unlike any other. Four regular season home matches for #WarriorBall21, four wins…all without the nation’s best fans in the arena creating the best atmosphere in men’s college volleyball. Yes it’s been different to have piped in noise and cardboard cutouts in place of fans. It took the Rainbow Warriors a couple of sets during that first home match for them to get used to it. And as reigning National AND Big West Player of the Week Rado Parapunov said last month, “playing at home is big for us and the community…so many people did their best to make this possible for us to come back and play. We owe them a lot.” These guys feel the support, feel the energy by you the fan as you follow the match live from wherever you may be.

We knew there would be five seniors (Parapunov, Gasman, Cowell, Van Eekeren and Anastassiades). This is why they all came back. Their senior weekend last year was taken away due to COVID-19. But a sixth player (a redshirt junior athletically, but a senior academically), said Senior Night is the “best way to kind of wrap it all up.”

Video courtesy of Rob DeMello and KHON2 Sports

On a 6-match losing streak, UC Irvine (2-11 overall, 2-6 Big West) comes to town for an extended trip to the islands. Rather than fly back home, then come back a couple days ahead of the start of the conference tournament, the Anteaters will stay on island. A team that has been hit by the injury bug, but still feature two All-Americans: outside hitter Joel Schneidmiller and Scott Stadick. These two teams played each other earlier in the season, two wins for Hawai`i: 3-1 on opening night, followed by a 3-0 sweep. Those results counted only for the overall record. The two this week will count for the regular season. UH is going for more history this week: two wins would give UH their first undefeated regular season in program history. It would also mark the third time in program history (and first since 1996) that UH would finish with an unbeaten conference record.

For the last 14 months, University of Hawai`i Assistant Media Relations Director Eric Mathews has been doing a podcast for UH called WarriorCast. His latest episode, which came out yesterday, features three of the six graduating.