Friday, May 6, 2022 | By Tiff Wells
Just find a way…and they did.
The two National Semifinals lived up to its billing on Thursday night from Pauley Pavilion. 10 total sets played. Five hours and seven minutes of high quality volleyball. Two epic comebacks. The Bows etched their name into the National Championship match for a third consecutive tournament with a thrilling #CincoSets victory over the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association auto bid recipient and No. 2 seed Ball State Cardinals. Set scores from UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion were 28-26, 19-25, 20-25, 25-20, 15-11.
After waiting nearly 45 minutes for its match to start, the Rainbow Warriors got off to a hot start and lead by as many as eight at 20-12. But in what has been a microcosm of the season for #WarriorBall22, sometimes big leads aren’t big enough and Ball State would fend off two UH set points, eventually serving for the match at 25-24. Cole Hogland served his second ace of the set as UH survived 28-26 to grab the 1-0 match lead.
After an early 3-0 lead for UH in set 2, it was all Ball State. An extended 12-2 run grew into a 20-10 Cardinals lead. The Bows made it a set, getting as close as 23-19 before the Cardinals evened the match at one with the 25-19 victory.
A five-point cushion in set 3 at 13-8 for Ball State was all they needed as the teams continued to trade sideouts, eventually leading to a 25-20 victory and a 2-1 lead in the match.
The defending champions were on the ropes. Season on the line. What would the response be?
After a 6-1 run to grab the 11-4 lead in Set 4, UH saw the lead dwindle to one at 14-13. A few sideouts by both teams, then a big natural point at 17-14 was all the Rainbow Warriors needed as they evened the match at 2 winning the 4th set 25-20 to force the decisive fifth set.
With the shaky serve-receive game for UH all match long, the Bows opened the fifth set on receive. Could the Bows get the best server for Ball State, Quinn Isaacson off the line after one serve? Yes! After a great reception of serve, Jakob Thelle found Dimitrios Mouchlias who got the scoring going in the fifth and that is all Hawai`i would need. They would never trail nor see the set tied again. Back-to-back service aces by the Ace King, Jakob Thelle, the Bows got out to the early lead at 4-0. It would grow to 6-1 and 10-3. UH needed a couple of match point opportunities before the final point, that was originally ruled a successful dig by Ball State, was overturned after further review to give the Rainbow Warriors the 15-11 win and a 3-2 match victory.
Survive. And. Advance.
The Rainbow Warriors (26-5) became the first team since UCLA (’94-’96) to make three consecutive National Championship matches. The Greek duo of Spyros Chakas (19 kills) and Dimitrios Mouchlias (19 kills) lead UH’s balance offensive attack. Chakas added 10 digs for his first career double-double. Mouchlias was dig shy of the double-double. Chaz Galloway added 10 kills to give UH three players with double figures in kills. Libero Brett Sheward tied his career-high in digs again with 16. Outblocked 16-9 and outhit .262 to .241 by Ball State, UH won every other major statistical category (64-50 in kills, 13-7 in aces, 51-39 in digs). The middles got involved as well. Guilherme Voss added eight kills while Cole Hogland had another outstanding tournament (six kills on nine swings to hit .556, two aces and three blocks. Big West Conference Player of the Year Jakob Thelle added four more aces to his UH single-season all-time record number and dished out 56 assists.
They say it’s hard to beat a team three times in a single season. UH had to wait 94 days since that 5-set loss at Ball State on January 31st, but the Bows avenged that loss to move to Saturday’s Championship match where it is an all Big West Conference affair once again.
A good Hawai`i crowd was on there on Thursday night. Even more are expected for Saturday’s 5 p.m. PT (2 p.m. HT) National Championship match against longtime rival, top-seeded Long Beach State. The Beach came from behind to win the final three sets and defeat host UCLA 16-14 in the fifth set. Another 20-kill performance from National Player of the Year Alex Nikolov (20-3-42, .405) and an error-free night from Clarke Godbold (11-0-16, .688) powered Long Beach State’s offense to a .412 hitting percentage.
Bows. Beach. Round 4. This one for a National Championship.
Mahalo to Southern Turf Hawaii and HGEA for supporting our ESPN Honolulu volleyball broadcast!
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