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NCAA Tourney Recap: Hawai’i 3, North Greenville 0

Wednesday, May 4, 2022 | By Tiff Wells

Focused. Business-like. Efficient.

That’s how the No. 4 seeded Hawai`i men’s volleyball team looked in their 80-minute 3-0 sweep over Conference Carolinas auto bid recipient and No. 7 seed North Greenville in the third Opening Round match on Tuesday night from Pauley Pavilion at UCLA. Set scores were 25-15, 25-17, 25-16. A 7-0 Jakob Thelle scoring run from the service line was all UH needed as they cruised to a 25-15 in the opening set. Siding out at 87% (14-16) off of first ball contact, UH (25-5) hit .455 (12 kills, 2 hitting errors, 22 hitting attempts) en route to the early 1-0 match lead. Early in Set 2, Jakob Thelle recorded his fourth service ace of the match, giving him 55 for the season…a new UH single-season record (sideout era and rally scoring era). Tough serving, something that NGU (21-6) just hadn’t seen all season long as they were out of system a majority of the night. Tied at six, the Bows utilized an extended 15-5 run to take a commanding lead, eventually winning the set 25-17 to take a 2-0 match lead. One set away, there was no let up. Eventually a 19-13 lead turned into a 25-16 set three win to give UH the 3-0 match victory and the honor of advancing their name into the semifinal round of the bracket.

The loss ended the Cinderella run for the Conference Carolinas (regular season AND tournament champions. First NCAA appearance in school history, first NCAA Tournament win for both the school and the conference, North Greenville had a remarkable 2022 season. It also ended the career of its Head Coach, Dr. Fred Battenfield who had announced his retirement prior to the start of the 2022 season.

12 kills from Spyros Chakas, 10 kills from Dimitrios Mouchlias and the top blocking team in the country showed up (10.5 total team blocks) powered UH to the victory, holding NGU to a season-low .062 hitting percentage. For Thursday, UH will need some offensive production from both Guilherme Voss (2 kills on 5 swings, hit .000) and Chaz Galloway (3 kills on 13 swings, hit .077).

It sets up what many expected to see in the late semifinal…Hawai`i, Ball State…round three. The Cardinals (23-3, 12-2) surprised many en route to their first MIVA regular season title since 2022. Three matches in the MIVA postseason tournament…three wins (all by 3-0 set scores) gave BSU their first conference tournament title and first NCAA bid since 2002. Ball State did defeat Hawai`i twice this past January in Muncie. A 3-0 sweep, followed by a 5-set victory, the Cardinals utilized a quick offense and took advantage of a Hawai`i lineup that did not have a key reserve available in the first match and did not have three starters available for both matches.

The Cardinals have the most efficient offense in the country and maybe run the quickest tempo of anyone. They lead the country in kills per set (13.85) and assists per set (12.82). Also known for their defense, they are number two in the country in blocks per set (2.66) and are third in digs (8.88). Running the offense is First-Team All-American setter Quinn Isaacson who will finally get his chance to play against Jakob Thelle. MIVA Player of the Year and First-Team All-America Outside Attacker Kaleb Jenness is number two in the country in kills per set (4.71), while Opposite Hitter Angelos Mandilaris is tied for 7th (4.19 kills per set). The two combine for nearly 10 points per set. When the two teams played this past January, Jenness (19 night 1, 20 night two) and Mandilaris (14 night one, 25 night two) each had a combined 39 kills in those two matches. Leading Ball State is first year head coach and Baldwin High alum Donan Cruz. Named the MIVA and AVCA National Coach of the Year, Cruz has led Ball State to the semifinal round of the NCAA Championship with the help of Graduate Student, First-Team All-American Setter Quinn Isaacson.

A good Hawai`i crowd was on hand for the Tuesday night sweep. More are expected for the late Semifinal match against the Cardinals.

Starting off Semifinal Thursday is No. 1 seed Long Beach State and host, fourth seed UCLA at 5 p.m. PT (2 p.m. HT) with the winner moving to Saturday’s Championship against the UH/BSU winner.

They say it’s hard to beat a team three times. And for the first time in three meetings this season against Ball State, Hawai`i is at full-strength.

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