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At The Net: A Rainbow Warrior Volleyball Blog by Tiff Wells | Week 1

Saturday, January 14, 2023

By Tiff Wells

#BusinessFinished. #Back22Back. Hawai`i Men’s Volleyball has become the must see attraction on the island over the last couple of years. And with all seven starters plus an experienced group of reserves returning for #WarriorBall23, a lot is expected of this group. Evident by receiving all but one first-place vote in the AVCA Preseason Coaches Poll. Evident by some of the older guys that knew how special this season could be they turned down professional contracts to play for the state and with their brothers for one more season.

Different team, same conference affiliation for the series opener this season as No. 6 Ball State came to the island. And a team that was very confident against Hawai`i a year ago, defeating them twice during the regular season when the Bows were at less than full strength. When it mattered in the semifinal round of the NCAA Championship, the Bows survived in a five-set thriller en route to the title. 

UH picked up right where it left off from a season ago, taking Set 1 25-16. Eight kills from Spyros Chakas powered the Bows offense, hitting .440. A tighter Set 2 went to the Bows as they needed a couple of set point opportunities to close 25-23 and lead the match 2-0. Ball State wouldn’t go quietly as they hit .357 en route to a 25-22 Set 3 victory and keep the match alive. Too much diversity in UH’s offense as the Bows won their 10th-straight season opener, closing the match in four sets with the 25-17 win. 19 kills from Chakas, 14 from Chaz Galloway and 11 for Guilherme Voss powered the Bows’ offense as they hit .402 for the night. Cardinals All-American hitter Kaleb Jenness led the way for Ball State with 18 kills. Known for their blocking, BSU outblocked UH 10 to 5. Season opening win…check. Now for the banner reveal.

Photo: Jonathan Salvador

You knew it was going to be a special night. Not very often, in this day and age of the power five conference domination, that a group of five school celebrates a National Championship. Let alone defending the title to win it for a second consecutive year. Last year it was Colton Cowell from the rafters unveiling the 2021 banner. This season, the honor was shared amongst two local boys, `Eleu Choy (Farrington) and Makua Marumoto (Hawaii Baptist / St. Francis). An emotional night for all in the arena, but how would the UH players control their emotions because…a match still had to be played.

Never trailing and up by as many as six, Ball State held on for the 25-23 opening set victory. Even with seven more kills (17-10), UH had 14 unforced errors (9 serving, 5 hitting). Like the previous night in Set 1, Chakas led UH with eight kills. The squad rebounded to hold off the Cardinals in Set 2, winning it 25-23. Another set where Jakob Thelle directed the offense to hitting over .450 (.462), UH held off Ball State in Set 2 for the 25-23 victory. Going to at least four sets for a second consecutive night, UH turned to its…serving. An aspect of the game where they had struggled in the first two sets, Dimitrios Mouchlias turned in up a notch. A career-high tying four service aces highlighted the 25-18 Set 3 win. Another 25-18 set victory, this time in the fourth gave UH its second straight 3-1 win over Ball State. Another night where BSU out-blocked UH (7.5 to 5), UH’s floor defense shined. Libero Brett Sheward led the way with a career-high 17 digs. 

Photo: Jonathan Salvador

One week in and a lot to work on, but at the end of the day, UH got what it needed. Two wins. Two wins over Top 6 team that are early bullet points on the resume. Definitely not wanting to be peaking in January, UH played well enough against a quality team to get the victories. A squad that returned so much from a season ago and with the target on their back yet again, the Bows know that this season is a marathon, not a sprint. You can’t win the National Championship after one week of play. Serving consistency, first-ball contact off of serve and blocking are just a couple of things to look for areas in improvement ahead of the next series against Saint Francis. The Red Flash (0-2) had the week off after losing twice at Stanford, one coming in five sets.

Matches Wednesday and Friday this week, both can heard on ESPN Honolulu. Hope to see you there as the Bows will be on the road or on a bye for the next few weeks.
#GoBows #WarriorBall23 #HawaiiMVB #NCAAMVB