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Quick Sets: Mahalo and Aloha

Photo: Tiff Wells

By Tiff Wells | May 11, 2021

What is legacy defined by. Individual stats? Wins? Trophies? The impact left? How will you remember this #WarriorBall21 squad? What moments define those careers of players who will graduate, some for a second or even third time later on this month?

This #WarriorBall21 squad had numerous All-Americans, but the team was filled with quality role-players and the redshirts who got better in practice by going up against some of the best in the country. A-plus side versus A-side as we hear Head Coach Charlie Wade say on more than one occasion. You think of those seniors:

James Anastassiades (has his kinesiology and rehabilitation science degree, in graduate school. The best hype man in the land, it was awesome seeing him back on the floor with the team during the run in Columbus after he served this past home season as a pre-and-post match analyst on Spectrum Sports).

Jackson van Eekeren (has a finance degree, working on his masters in finance. Known as “slim”, a quality backup who could have been the primary setter for a lot of teams but was a key piece of the Warrior Bench Mob and a solid team guy).

Gage Worsley (a three-year starter and three-time, first-team All-American who will graduate this week with his human development and family studies degree. Known as G-Swizzle, kept everyone loose with his words and actions, but knew when the lights came on that it was time to focus and lock in).

Pat Gasman (known as Uncle Pat, here for a sixth season after his skateboard accident in 2015 that caused him to miss the 2016 season. Has his mechanical engineering degree and business minor, volunteered with Malama meals, did a lot of work in the Papakolea area, was a project manager for a construction company at Schofield Barracks and is in the same finance master’s program as van Eekeren. The Big West Conference’s first ever four-time first-team All-Conference selection and a three-time All-American, Gasman’s .436 career hitting percentage is fourth all-time. His 52 block solos rank him ninth all-time, 415 block assists put him at second all-time, 467 total blocks has him at third-all time and . The leader of The Mānoa Roofing Company, he could be seen in the future wearing a US Men’s National Team jersey. He played in 124 of a possible 125 matches and closes his historic career with a 105-19. He wanted that national championship ring. He got that national championship ring).

Colton Cowell (#MauiBuilt has one of the greatest stories in college volleyball. Not recruiting coming out of King Kekaulike, Head Coach Charlie Wade gave the 145-pound outside hitter a chance as an invited walk-on. From invited walk-on, to making the roster, to serving specialist, to redshirting, Cowell never gave up on his dream as he continued to work hard and wait for his opportunity. In this era of instant gratification for athletes and the ever so popular transfer portal, he didn’t leave. Learned from the upperclassmen, wanting to be that next local boy role model, he shined into a three-year starter and two-time All-American. Has his economics degree, will earn his graduate certificate in renewable energy this month, was a publicity officer and spokesperson for the UH Special Olympics Committee. You could see him playing professionally, either indoor overseas or on the beach. US Men’s National Team Head Coach John Speraw does like his game…perhaps he could be the next former UH player to be in the National Team gym?

Rado Parapunov (#RocketRado, the Bulgarian Hammer…Head Coach Charlie Wade saw this 6’9” lefty and thought he would have something special for the future. Wade already had an All-American opposite in Stijn van Tilburg, but he wanted that double-headed monster on the floor and so he moved SVT to outside hitter and Parapunov entered the lineup in 2018. A three-time first-team All-American (just UH’s fourth along with Costas Theocharidis, van Tilburg and Gage Worsley), Parapunov earned back-to-back Big West Conference Player of the Year awards and was the fourth ever UH player to be named National Player of the Year and first since 2003. 72 times in his career, he had double-digit kills (including the final 24). His blocking improved, his floor defense improved as noted by his #MoreDigsThanGage hashtag, Parapnuov became the floor captain and leader of this group. Watching him in the postmatch interview this past Saturday with the ESPNU crew of Paul Sunderland and Kevin Barnett, Parapunov just showed the trophy to the camera when asked about his recent personal stat-lines. He has his marketing degree and will earn his masters as well, Parapunov leaves the islands to join 21 of his countrymen on the Bulgaria pre-FIVB Volleyball Nations league team ahead of the FIVB Volleyball Men’s Nation League tournament that begins on the 28th of this month.

At the end of the 2021 Men’s Volleyball rainbow, there was a national championship. This season was quite different. No media access to practices. Players tested multiple times a week and a lot of credit goes to the UH medical staff as well as the program as #WarriorBall21 was one of a few teams in the country that never had a positive test nor had a shutdown. There was no player access to a locker room. No fans for home matches. A limit of fans for the final two matches of the season.

Year eight #BehindTheMic as the radio voice of Hawai`i volleyball included: seven home matches (all without fans), a trip to Northridge (also without fans) to witness their first ever outright conference championship since 1980, their first ever undefeated regular season (15-0) and third ever perfect conference season (10-0), a stunning loss at home to fourth-seeded UC San Diego in the Outrigger Hotels and Resorts Big West Championship presented by The Hawaiian Islands, watching the streamed NCAA Selection Show to see UH receive the top seed for a second straight National Championship, a dominant National Semifinal performance and fourth win in 2021 over conference foe UC Santa Barbara to then being followed up with an outstanding National Championship performance with the rout and sweep of rival BYU for the National Championship.

I thank you for following along all season long via ESPN Honolulu (92.7-FM and 1420-AM), CBS 1500, the listen live buttons on ESPNHonolulu.com and CBSSportsHawaii.com, our Sideline Hawai`i app and all across the social media platforms. I’ll take Sports Animal Gary Dickman’s line of “I can’t wait..” and say, I can’t wait until the opening dance of #WarriorBall22. I hope fans are allowed in. If that’s the case, it’ll be a sellout to see that banner raised to the rafters. I know arena manager Rich Sheriff is ready to clear the space for that banner and he’s been waiting a long time to do that. We’ve all waited a long time to see a banner raised. 2021 was a ring season. It was a banner season. The trophy is home on the island. And the hashtag of #UnfinishedBusiness now reads…#BusinessFinished.

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Photo: Hawaii Athletics