Put on your dancing shoes. Seven teams head to Columbus, Ohio for the 2021 Men’s National Collegiate Volleyball Championship with the same goal in mind: to hoist the championship trophy. The Rainbow Warriors are in, making their second straight appearance and seventh all-time. Also, for the second straight Championship, UH is the No. 1 seed, meaning #WarriorBall21 (15-1 overall) won’t play until the semifinal round (Thursday, May 6th). UH already recorded its first ever unbeaten regular season in program history and was the No. 1 seed in its own conference championship that they were hosting. For the Rainbow Warriors, the mantra this season has been #UnfinishedBusiness. In this week nine edition of “Quick Sets,” Tiff Wells looks 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 came to a close last Saturday with Hawai`i…watching their own conference championship match on television.
By Tiff Wells
April 26, 2021 – The Bows made the Men’s National Collegiate Volleyball Championship field on Sunday, just not the way nearly everyone thought they would. Up a set two different times in the semifinal round of the Outrigger Hotels and Resorts Big West Men’s Volleyball Championship presented by The Hawaiian Islands, top-seed Hawai`i just couldn’t close out fourth-seeded UC San Diego. A team they had beaten four times this season and hadn’t lost to since 2012 (17-straight wins), stunned the home team, their fans and the volleyball community with an 18-16 win in set five to advance to the championship match against No. 2 UC Santa Barbara. An off-night for both the reigning two-time AVCA National Player of the Week and reigning three-time Big West Player of the Week Rado Parapunov (career-high 13 hitting errors) and for the Hawai`i offense (hit .281; came into the match leading the Big West and NCAA at a .373 clip), coupled with a season-high 10 service reception errors by UH, a stunned Hawai`i squad walked off the floor. Now they had to play a different game…the waiting game. A resume featuring: a 15-1 record, 11 wins over the top 15, a 3-0 record against teams under NCAA Championship consideration, an unjustified RPI rating at No. 3 and a No. 39 rated strength of schedule…the No. 1 team in the country for the past two months couldn’t be left out of the NCAAs…could they? This wouldn’t be the last time we’d see Pat Gasman, Gage Worsley, Rado Parapunov, Colton Cowell and Jackson Van Eekeren in a Hawai`i uniform, would it?
Championship Saturday included four automatic bids (EIVA, MIVA, MPSF and Big West) and with the first match not starting until 1 p.m. HST, it would be a long day of watching streams or live updates of matches. UH was rooting for chalk, wanting the favorites to win. No chaos in the EIVA as Penn State won 3-1. One of the two possible “automatic bid stealers” didn’t happen in the MIVA as Lewis won 3-0. BYU took the MPSF with a 3-0 win. All that was left was the Big West Conference’s championship matchup of UC Santa Barbara and cinderella UC San Diego. A team that was 3-12 coming into the Big West Championship, the Tritons won their first ever Big West postseason match with a quarterfinal win against CSUN and then followed it up with the biggest win in program history to get them into the final. Could UCSD put it together for another match and steal a bid? It started out well as they won the opening set. Ultimately UC Santa Barbara won the match 3-1 and the accompanied automatic bid. Named the MVP was Punahou alum and current UCSB outside hitter Ryan Wilcox. A deep sigh of relief as chalk prevailed in all four championship matches. As Hawai`i fans you felt good, especially after seeing Off The Block saying they felt confident that UH would still receive an at-large bid and the Bows would still be the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Men’s Volleyball Championship. But, as a Hawai`i fan…we know stranger things have happened in the past with UH teams and the NCAA selection committee.
A streamed selection show didn’t waste any time as a little after 7 a.m. HST, #WarriorBall21 saw this:
— Hawaii Men’s Volleyball (@HawaiiMensVB) April 25, 2021
Not only was UH in, but the committee stayed true to their criteria categories when determining the NCAA Championship field and rewarded the Rainbow Warriors with the No. 1 overall seed. A great regular season gave the Bows a bye into the semifinal round, where they will face the winner of the 4-5 matchup (No. 4 seed: Big West auto bid recipient UC Santa Barbara, 15-4 and No. 5 seed: at-large recipient out of the MPSF Pepperdine, 13-6) on Thursday, May 6th at 5 p.m. EST / 11 a.m. HST. A streamed match on ncaa.com, we’ll have live radio coverage on ESPN Honolulu (92.7-FM / 1420-AM / ESPNHonolulu.com / Sideline Hawai`i app) beginning at 4:45 p.m. EST / 10:45 a.m. HST with our prematch show.
To view the entire bracket, click here.
A second chance, one final opportunity to finish the business that was left unfinished after the 2020 season was cancelled. That all begins Thursday, May 6th in Columbus, Ohio.
To hear from Head Coach Charlie Wade and Rado Parapunov, please click here:
To watch the entire selection show, please click here.