No. 1 Hawaii defeats Cal State Northridge to capture its first Big West volleyball regular-season crown

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser
·3 min read

Apr. 11—On the path toward bigger goals ahead, the Hawaii men's volleyball team passed a historic milestone with its sweep of Cal State Northridge on Saturday.

The top-ranked Rainbow Warriors captured the program's first Big West regular-season championship with a 25-20, 25-20, 25-21 sweep of the Matadors at the Matadome in Northridge, Calif. UH's school-record 15th consecutive road win also locked up the program's first outright regular-season conference title since 1980.

"Any time we can do something like that it's significant not just for this group but for all the people that have been part of the program for so long, " UH coach Charlie Wade said. "And moreover it says we're in position to play for the league championship and national championship and that's certainly been our goal for a while and will continue to be."

UH senior Rado Parapunov hammered a match-high 15 kills while hitting.407 and middle blocker Guilherme Voss added a career-high nine kills on 12 attempts and the Rainbow Warriors improved to 13-0 overall and 8-0 in conference play.

The Warriors return home to close the regular season with a two-match series against UC Irvine starting Friday at SimpliFi Arena. UH will be the top seed for the Big West tournament set for April 22-24 in Manoa.

"We're going into the most important part of the season, " Parapunov said after posting double-figure kills for his 19th consecutive match. "We have to give everything we have. Teams are hungry, teams want to prove themselves—now's the time."

Voss went 7-for-7 with eight blocks in Friday's series opener and continued to connect with setter Jakob Thelle in the middle on Saturday to finish the weekend hitting.789 for the series. Senior middle blocker Patrick Gasman added six kills on 12 attempts.

"It's really putting pressure on the other team's defense in the middle of the court and to have that for six rotations it makes us hard to defend, " Wade said, "and it opens up the offense so all five players on the floor can attack."

UH also got a spark off the bench from sophomore Kana'i Akana, who entered the match to start the second set. The Punahou graduate and transfer from BYU put away five kills on nine swings and was flawless in 16 serve receptions.

"He's such a great energy guy and just steady every day in practice that I knew he'd go in and perform and it was what the team needed in that moment and he played great, " Wade said.

After taking UH to four sets on Friday, CSUN (1-7, 1-7 ) stayed with the Warriors into the late stages of Saturday's opening set, trailing 21-20 after a kill by Griffin Walters. Parapunov took over from there, hammering three consecutive kills to push the Warriors to set point.

"He's the best player in collegiate men's volleyball and it's not even close this year, " Wade said. "He's definitely playing the game at another level."

UH senior Colton Cowell fired two of his match-high three aces on consecutive serves and later posted back-to-back blocks to help the Warriors take command of the second set with a 20-14 lead.

The third set was tied 18-18 when a Parapunov kill off a Cowell assist sparked a 5-0 UH run capped by Akana's fifth kill. Parapunov's cross-court kill gave UH match point and Thelle ended it with a kill off a second touch.

Walters and Cole Chea led CSUN (1-7, 1-7 ) with nine kills each.