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At The Net: A Rainbow Warrior Volleyball Blog by Tiff Wells | Week 14 | Big West Tournament | Photo Gallery

By Tiff Wells:

In the week leading up to heading to Irvine, UH learned that six of their seven starters were named to the 14-player Big West Conference First Team. Add in Kurt Nusterer receiving All-Freshman honors, UH received a total of seven all-conference honors. Getting the two seed in the Outrigger Resorts Men’s Volleyball Championship, presented by the Hawaiian Islands was huge. It gave the team an extra day of rest. And because of not enough available flights into the state of California from Hawai`i, it forced the travelling party of about twenty to fly into Phoenix, and then into Los Angeles. Not phasing the two-time defending champions, the Bows were locked in. It’s postseason mode. Continue to win in your conference’s postseason tournament and you control your entrance into the NCAAs.

As spectators for Quarterfinal Thursday, UH watched 4-seed UC Santa Barbara outlast 5-seed UC San Diego in a five-set match. Some say it’s hard to beat a team three times in a season. UH controlled Semifinal Friday from the get-go. An 8-6 lead ballooned into an 18-12 advantage. Buoyed by the pro-Hawai`i crowd, the Bows hit a blistering .632 (13-1-19) en route to a 25-18 Set 1 win. Leads of 11-6 and 21-14 for UH propelled them to a 25-19 victory and a commanding 2-0 match lead. Staring at an 0-2 deficit and with their season on the line, the Gauchos made a couple lineup changes. It didn’t matter. Tied at 11, UH outscored UCSB 14 to 7, punctuated by the walk-off service ace by Jakob Thelle. Career service ace number 121, tying him with Costas Theocharidis and Pedro Azenha for the UH program record. A match-high 13 kills for Dimitrios Mouchlias and Thelle’s first double-double (26 assists, 12 digs) highlighted UH’s 20th 3-0 win of the season. Playing in their first neutral site match of the season, the Bows felt very comfortable. And with many fans in house rooting on the green and white, UH felt nearly at home inside The Bren Events Center. Warrior Nation traveled well and showed up for Friday’s semifinal. There would be even more in house for the Saturday final. And they were needed as UH would be playing in a road match for the Championship as 3-seed UC Irvine stunned 2-seed Long Beach State in Friday’s late semifinal via a 3-0 sweep.

Playing in their fourth Big West Championship match, playing in a big match is nothing new. Very rare to see a men’s regular season or non-NCAA match shown on one of the ESPN networks. Very cool to have this Big West Championship match shown live on ESPNU. #GrowTheGame…let’s believe in this phrase. The coconut wireless was alive and well as many UH fans flocked to the team hotel to send the team off with positive vibes and good juju. The crowd was lively. The crowd was large. And Warrior Nation was again on display for the entire country to see. 

Racing out to leads of 17-11 and 22-13, UH took Set 1 25-18 off their first block of the match. The Bows hit .407 and were brilliant from the service line with five service aces. Knowing they had to win the match to make the NCAAs, UC Irvine turned a 15-all Set 2 into a 25-21 victory to even the match at 1 set a piece. It was UH’s first road set lost this season. How would the Bows respond? By putting Jakob Thelle as the first server and UH opening up an 8-0 lead. Forcing UCI to exhaust both timeouts during his run, UH built a cushion that was too much to overcome. Getting a lot of block touches, which was a theme in sets two, three and four, UH owned the net. The Bows ran away with Set 3 25-13 to take the 2-1 match lead. Up 15-12 and 21-20 in Set 4, a joust by Chaz Galloway ended the Set 25-22 as UH won the match 3-1. Time for the tournament championship hats and shirts! The Bows were masterful on serve receive, as Hilir Henno only had one service ace and as a team, the Anteaters had just four for the match. The block for the Bows showed up big. After one in set one, UH recorded 16 total team blocks over the final three sets. A season-high 17 blocks, an offense that hit .330 (UH’s 26th match hitting over .300) and a defense that held UCI to a season-low .160 hitting percentage. For the first time, there was a repeat Most Outstanding Player as Jakob Thelle took home the honors. With the BWC’s AQ bid in hand, UH wouldn’t have to sweat on Selection Sunday as they knew they were into their 9th NCAA Tournament. The win gave UH their 28th win, tying the program record set by the 2019 team. Another double-digit kill performance for Mouchlias and Chaz Galloway stepped up offensively yet again with 13 kills, hitting .417.

After UH won the BWC auto-bid into the NCAAs, we knew of the five Automatic Qualifiers: UCLA (MPSF), Ohio State (MIVA), Penn State (EIVA) and King (Conference Carolinas). With no real upsets, Long Beach State was all but assured of receiving one of the two at-large bids. Two debates: who would receive the other at-large bid and which two teams would be the top two seeds. The committee gave the second at-large bid to Grand Canyon out of the MPSF. UCLA received the top seed and…UH would be given the number two seed. Meaning the Bows wouldn’t play in the NCAA Championship until Semifinal Thursday, first serve slated for 7:30pm ET / 1:30pm HT. Our coverage on ESPN Honolulu to begin at 1:15pm.

ESPN Honolulu will be live from Fairfax, Virginia as George Mason University will host the 2023 NCAA Championships. Seeded number two, the Bows won’t know of their opponent until after Tuesday’s third opening round match. UH could see a rematch with Penn State or could also see either Ohio State or King. On the other side of the bracket is UCLA to face either Long Beach State or Grand Canyon in the other semifinal. Tickets are still available. Wear your best green and white and hope to see you there! 

#GoBows #WarriorBall23 #HawaiiMVB #NCAAMVB

Big West Tournament Semifinals

Big West Tournament Championship