Monday, May 9, 2022 | By Tiff Wells
Twice as nice. And to do it in a convincing fashion over a longtime archrival? Even more sweet.
Led by the Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player Spyros Chakas (14 kills, .333, service ace, 3 blocks, 4 digs), the Big West Conference Tournament champion Hawai`i Rainbow Warriors (27-5) successfully defended their National Championship with a 1 hour, 52-minute 3-0 sweep over longtime conference rival and No. 1 overall seed Long Beach State (21-6) in the NCAA Men’s National Collegiate Volleyball Championship match on Saturday night. Final scores from Pauley Pavilion 25-22, 25-21, 25-20.
In the 2021 final against BYU, Hawai`i arguably played the perfect match. Nearly in system for the majority of the match, siding out efficiently off first ball contact, constant pressure from the service line and a dominant block powered UH to the easy and convincing victory.
Set scores were a little closer this time against Long Beach State, but UH saved their best performance of the year in the final match of the season once again as UH defeated LBSU for a second straight time in sweeping fashion.
Six Spyros Chakas kills in the opening set led UH to a .464 hitting percentage as UH won it 25-22.
Down by as many five points (9-4, 10-5) early in Set 2, a 5-0 scoring run from All-Tournament Team member Jakob Thelle got UH back in the set where the Bows would once again led at the halfway point 15-14. Timely blocking, clutch kills and a scrambling defense powered the Bows to the 25-21 victory and a commanding 2-0 lead in the match.
For a second straight match in the NCAA Tournament, top-seed Long Beach State entered the third set with their season on the line. The Beach held the lead at the halfway point, but it would be all Hawai`i after that. A 5-1 UH run took the Bows to a 20-17 lead. Match point soon came, Jack Walmer entered the match for the first time and his serve caused an overpass, leading to a net violation by LBSU which resulted in euphoria for UH as the celebration began for the Bows for a second straight season.
The National Player of the Year and National Newcomer of the Year Alex Nikolov got his. 20 kills (matching his 20 against UCLA), hit .405 and a service ace led The Beach. But has been the case for the majority of the season, what would you get from the others? A non-existent middle attack for The Beach, UH basically camped out on either pin and focused their defense against the three pin hitters for Long Beach State. UH stymied Clark Godbold (who had 11 kills on 16 errorless swings against UCLA) as he had just 6 kills hitting .071. Defensively, LBSU outdug 26-16, but the Bows was the block battle 8-1. The 1 for LBSU? A season-low.
Offensively, UH hit an astounding .434 (44 kills, 8 hitting errors, 83 swings). Jakob Thelle directed a very efficient offense where three players had eight or more kills (Chakas with 14, Dimitrios Mouchlias had 11, Chaz Galloway stepped up to provide eight) en route to their second straight title. Remember on Thursday against Ball State, UH was blocked 19 times and had 57 total errors (30 hitting, 18 serving, 7 receiving, 2 ball handling). Against LBSU in the final? Just 22 (8 hitting, 9 serving, 5 receiving). With UH in system and Thelle having many offensive options at his disposal, many one-on-one situations for his hitters led to UH being terminal on the attack. The Bows limited their unforced errors tremendously.
An announced crowd of 5,784 (maybe 65-35 or 60-40 UH) filled Pauley Pavilion and even with many more watching on television (sorry y’all were joined in progress after the NCAA Beach Volleyball Championships), UH performed very well in the City of Angels. From our broadcast position, it really was something to see just how many Hawai`i fans made the trip and how their sustained cheering throughout really quieted The Beach fans, who had to make a simple 30-mile drive up the 405.
Named to the All-Tournament Team: Hawai`i (Spyros Chakas, Dimitrios Mouchlias, and Jakob Thelle), Long Beach State (Alex Nikolov, Spencer Olivier), UCLA (Ethan Champlin), and Ball State (Quinn Isaacson).
With the win, UH became the fifth-straight team to repeat as National Champions, joining: UC Irvine (2012-13), Loyola Chicago (2014-15), Ohio State (2016-17), and Long Beach State (2018-19). For a fourth straight year, a team from the Big West Conference won the National Championship. Pretty amazing for the Conference that officially sanctioned the sport ahead of the 2018 season.
#WarriorBall22 started with being ranked preseason No. 1 in the National Poll and announced earlier on Monday, ended the season ranked No. 1.
Opening night at SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center saw the 2021 National Championship banner unveiled followed by a victory over Loyola Chicago. A season that included: playing three first-year opponents, hit by the health and safety protocols where three starters did not play in the two matches at Ball State which resulted in two losses, participating in the first-ever men’s collegiate volleyball match in Texas as part of the First Point Collegiate Challenge, a stunning loss at UC San Diego, two tough losses at Long Beach State, winning the Big West Championship for a second time in program history and then for a second straight season, playing in the final match of the 2022 Men’s Collegiate Volleyball season and hosting the Championship trophy.
Jakob Thelle set a new single-season all-time program record for service aces with 61. As a team, #WarriorBall22 recorded 226 service aces, which ties the record set by the 1996 team.
After losing the National Player of the Year (Rado Parapunov), two First-Team All-Americans (Pat Gasman, Gage Worsley), and a Second-Team All-American (Colton Cowell), many questioned where this team would be entering 2022. Head Coach Charlie Wade needed a new lineup after losing those four key starters due to graduation. Many more questioned how could this team, which would have a lot of new faces in the lineup, be the No. 1 team in the Preseason Coaches poll? Two losses at Ball State for a team that was at less than full-strength tested this team. After losing both matches at Long Beach State, many felt the resume for Hawai`i would not cut it for at-large consideration if they didn’t win the Big West Championship. Needing to basically win out the regular season, UH did just that. Four wins over UC Santa Barbara and UC Irvine gave UH the No. 2 seed in the Conference Tournament a bye into the semifinal. Seeing the craziness around the country with conference tournaments, UH knew they had to win against UCSB in the semifinal round. Check. Get to the final, at home against Long Beach State. Controlling their destiny, UH won the Conference Tournament title at home, finalizing their home record at 18-0 in 2022. For Selection Sunday, the only question for UH was where would they be placed in the bracket. A favorable draw as the No. 3 seed, avoiding the likes of Pepperdine, No. 1 Long Beach State, and host UCLA, UH was in the bottom half of the bracket with Princeton/North Greenville and No. 2 Ball State. UH easily swept North Greenville, getting a match under their belt before facing Ball State for a third time this season. Up 1-0, then down 2-1, UH would rally in set 4 and an early big lead in the 5th powered UH to the final. UH would end the season on a 9-match win streak after the 3-0 sweep over The Beach.
Five key members of #WarriorBall22 head in new directions: Middle Blockers Max Rosenfeld and Kyler Presho, along with Libero Avery Enriques add graduate degrees/certificates after already completing their bachelor degree requirements; Grad Assistant Athletic Trainer Michael Tang now has a position with the Kansas City Chiefs of the NFL and former Rainbow Warrior All-American and Assistant Coach Josh Walker heads to the Baylor Women’s Volleyball program as their new Assistant Coach.
In store for #WarriorBall23? We know Ball State will make its way to the island, as will BWC foes UCSD, UCI and LBSU. In addition, the return of the Outrigger Hotels & Resorts Invitational, which we haven’t had on the island since 2019. Cannot confirm the teams in the field, other than “it is a loaded field.” The 2023 Big West Tournament will be at UC Irvine with the National Tournament hosted by George Mason in Fairfax, Virginia. A new assistant will be on the staff, but who? Redshirts will see that tag taken off them and of course, another recruiting class.
Year 9 behind the mic as the Voice of Rainbow Warrior Volleyball comes to a close. Trips to: Muncie, Indiana (Ball State); Austin, Texas (Austin Convention Center for the First Point Collegiate Challenge); La Jolla, California (UC San Diego); Irvine, California (UC Irvine); and most recently, Los Angeles, California (UCLA). Extremely blessed to do what I do for the best fan base out there in the game. Meeting the families of the players and seeing all of you amazing fans either at home or on the road, it truly is a one of a kind experience that no one else outside of Hawai`i media gets to witness regularly. Thank you to ESPN Honolulu and CBS 1500 for putting me in this position, to all of our sponsors who help us bring you live coverage (both home and away), UH Athletics (MVB SID Derek Inouchi) for allowing us the access to the entire team and staff, my wife Taryn who accepts and understands that late nights and travel come with this position and you the fan.
#BusinessFinished in 2021. #HanaHou in 2022
We’ll pack up the 2022 season and head on home.
See you folks for #WarriorBall23
With much love and aloha,
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