By: Tiff Wells
As the kids say these days, it’s been a minute. After an extended 5-match roadtrip over three weeks, the top-ranked University of Hawai`i Men’s Volleyball team was back inside the friendly confines of SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center. First home match since January 20th to begin a season-long 11-match homestand. Coming into the week, UH received two of the three weekly Big West Conference Awards as Dimitrios Mouchlias (Offense) and Guilherme Voss (Defensive) took home honors. And Hawai`i volleyball fans would learn of a new term that’s more so heard in the NBA…load management.
Due to rest, All-American Setter Jakob Thelle would be held out of both matches against Concordia University Irvine. Libero Brett Sheward moved to Setter and UH’s second libero `Eleu Choy took over to be the primary libero position. UH didn’t miss a beat, leading start to finish to win 25-14 and lead the match 1-0. Back-and-forth in Set 2 and some unforced errors allowed CUI to win their first ever set in program history against UH, snapping UH’s 25-set win streak to even the match at one set a piece, winning the Set 25-22. First set loss since January 13th…how would UH respond. Set 3 saw a 6-4 lead balloon to a 15-7 advantage before UH took a 2-1 match lead with the 25-15 Set 3 victory. Offense was clicking as UH hit .615 (17-1-26) in the set. Needing a few match points to close, UH finished off the Golden Eagles in the 4th set with a 25-23 victory to win the match 3-1. Mouchlias recorded his first 20-kill performance of the week and a goal of his coming into the week was playing better in night one of a series. 20 kills, hitting .389 to go with eight digs, he more than answered the bell. Sheward ran the offense to a .402 hitting percentage, UH’s fifth match this season hitting over .400. Spyros Chakas added 16 kills, while Cole Hogland tied his career-high with 10 kills. For a ninth-straight match, UH recorded 8.5 or more blocks, as they recorded nine total blocks.
More of the same against a scrappy Golden Eagles team on night two. A back-and-forth opening frame went to the home team, 25-20. Siding out efficiently off of first ball contact (18-20, 90%), UH outhit CUI .419 to .367. Chakas led the way as seven of his match-high 14 kills came in the first set. Leading start to finish in Set 2, UH took a 2-0 match lead into intermission after a 25-19 Set 2 victory. With fan favorite Choy making highlight reel digs and both his energy and all-out effort fueling the other backrow players, the floor defense was really on display as UH outdug CUI 31-26 (it was 37-36 UH in night 1) en route to their eighth sweep of the season, winning Set 3 25-19. For a 10th time in 11 matches, UH hit over .300 (.382) as the Bows extended their NCAA-best winning streak to 20. Dominant at home, the Rainbow Warriors have now won 24-straight home matches and 29 regular-season home matches in a row.
Although the Golden Eagles did tool the UH block a lot, that UH block was very effective. Nine blocks in four sets on Thursday, eight more in Friday’s sweep. And with backup setter Brett Sheward running the offense yet again, he found the middles. Both Voss and Cole Hogland went off in the seven sets against CUI. To a tune of a combined effort of 26 kills on 37 swings, with just two errors and 10 blocks. After starting off very slow on Friday night, it was nice to see Chaz Galloway work his way out of the negatives to end up with 11 kills on a .231 hitting percentage.
Again, it’s easy to get up for an opponent that is highly ranked or a name team. A key again for UH moving into this week is to find the motivation and provide their own energy while feeding off the crowd for this next series against LIU. The Sharks (5-4, 1-0 NEC) play on Saturday before flying to island next week for a pair. Matches on Wednesday and Friday as the homestand continues for UH. Also, don’t forget our first installment of Call the Coach with Charlie Wade, this coming Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. at Ruby Tuesday Moanalua. Come on down to our free event and if you cannot make it, please tune into ESPN Honolulu (92.7-FM / 1420-AM) or espnhonolulu.com and have your questions ready. Either call or text in (808) 296-1420.
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