Saturday, January 21, 2023 | By Tiff Wells
Anyone can get up for match against a ranked opponent. Especially one that beat you twice a season ago, even if you were at less than full-strength. But when you’re playing a team that isn’t ranked…isn’t a big name school…what factor(s) kick in to motivate you prior to the match? When you’re the two-time defending national champs, everyone is coming for you. The target is larger than what it was a year ago. And when you have the most passionate and supportive fan base in the country behind you every single match, you can’t just show up and rest on your laurels. 2023 is a new year and for Hawai`i, they came into the Saint Francis series as the unanimous number one team in the country, both in the AVCA Coaches Poll and the Off the Block Media Poll. And for UH’s efforts in the previous week, numerous awards came their way. Brett Sheward was named the Big West Conference Defensive Player of the Week and a haul for Spyros Chakas…named: Big West Conference Offensive Player of the Week, Off The Block National Outside of the Week AND AVCA National Player of the Week.
Up by as many as 10, UH got off to a hot start and cruised to a 25-16 Set 1 win. Hitting .417 and siding out at 70%, nearly everything was working well. Chaz Galloway found his groove from the service line with a career-high three aces. Set two featured a 4-0 Keoni Thiim service run to help UH race out to 25-18 victory and a 2-0 match lead. Just one hitting error, UH hit .474 and held Saint Francis to a .194 hitting percentage. A goal of Head Coach Charlie Wade was to get some the reserves some match time…and he was able to do that. Five reserves started Set 3 (only Jakob Thelle and Cole Hogland remained on the floor) and it included the season debuts for `Eleu Choy (libero) and Makua Marumoto (serving specialist), as well as the UH debut for Kurt Nusterer (middle). Despite the eight hitting errors, UH held on for a 25-23 win and their first sweep of the season. If you blinked, you may have missed the 76 mph serve from Thiim to win the match. Kana`i Akana tied his career-high of seven kills. Happy to get the win, disappointed to hit a season-low .324, the Rainbow Warriors (3-0) would get a day off from match play before closing out the season-opening homestand.
A week after 23 service errors in night two against Ball State, UH recalibrated from the line. In the first of two matches against the Red Flash, the Rainbow Warriors served eight aces with just five errors, serving in at a 93% clip. Set 1 on night two was more of the same as UH recorded five service aces. Outside of one tie, it was all UH as they took the frame 25-21. Outside of a handful of ties, UH never trailed in Set 2, winning it 25-20 to lead the match 2-0. Saint Francis changed their blocking scheme as they went from read-blocking to commit-blocking and Jakob Thelle made the Red Flash pay. With Voss and Hogland holding the SFU middles, UH’s pin trio of Chakas, Dimitrios Mouchlias and Chaz Galloway carried the load. 36 of the 44 kills for the match came from the pin trio as each hit over .345. Austin Buchanan made his season debut as he ran the offense in Set 3 where UH saw their only deficit of the match…at 1-0. For a second time in three matches, UH hit over .300 (.340).
In all four matches, UH has hit over .320. Offensive efficiency hasn’t been the problem. What has been very noticeable is the blocking…or the lack thereof. UH has been out-blocked in all four of the matches. While the block is a work in progress, the floor defense has shined. Sheward has been in the right spots more often than not as he’s recorded two matches already this season with 10+ digs. What also shined was the amount of #HawaiiMVB fans that came through the gates at SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center. Over 18,000 through four matches as they won’t see their beloved Bows back on the tera flex until February 16th.
Now comes UH’s first road-trip of the regular season is the longest road-trip of the regular season. Three matches over four days in the state of North Carolina, UH faces Queens (1-2 pending a Sunday match against Merrimack College) on Wednesday, Belmont Abbey (1-5) on Thursday and Barton (0-4) on Saturday. ESPN Honolulu will be with the Bows for all three as UH hopes (and many fans expect) to make a second trip to the East Coast come May, as the Men’s Volleyball Championship is in Fairfax, Virginia.
#GoBows #WarriorBall23 #HawaiiMVB #NCAAMVB