Apr. 10—Top-ranked Hawaii started strong and overcame a mid-match lull Friday with its most efficient set of the season in a four-set win over Cal State Northridge, securing at least a share of the Big West men's volleyball regular-season title in the process.
UH senior Rado Parapunov put down a match-high 17 kills, Colton Cowell had 13 in his return to the lineup and the Rainbow Warriors improved to 12-0 overall and 7-0 in conference play with a 25-17, 25-20, 23-25, 25-19 win over the Matadors (1-6, 1-6 ) in the series opener at the Matadome in Northridge, Calif.
With three regular-season matches remaining, the Warriors claimed the top seed in the Big West tournament, set for April 22-24 at SimpliFi Arena, and the Warriors can clinch the regular-season title outright with a win in today's 1 p.m. rematch with CSUN (1-6, 1-6 ).
UH has finished no lower than second in the Big West standings since the conference instituted men's volleyball in 2018.
"Just in terms of accomplishing things for the program and have the program be in contention for championships is something we want to do each and very year, " UH coach Charlie Wade said in a post-match Zoom call.
UH's previous two trips to Northridge ended in painful memories. The Warriors were swept by the Matadors in two matches in 2018, ultimately damaging UH's NCAA tournament hopes, and they were preparing for a match at CSUN last year when the remainder of the season was canceled.
This time UH took command early in hitting.455 over the first two sets. The Matadors pounced on nine UH hitting errors, five coming on Matadors blocks, in winning the third set to extend the match. The Warriors then hit a season-best.692 in the fourth, putting down 18 kills in 26 attempts with no hitting errors, to finish off UH's 14th consecutive road win.
Parapunov reached double-digit kills for the 18th straight match and Cowell hit.440 in his return from an injury that kept him out of UH's five-set win over Long Beach State on April 3. UH hit a collective.429 in the match.
UH middle blockers Patrick Gasman and Guilherme Voss connected with setter Jakob Thelle to hit a combined.762. Voss put down all seven of his swings and was in on a career-high eight of UH's 14 blocks. Gasman went 9-for-14 with five blocks.
"The connection's just been way better since Long Beach, " Gasman said. "In practice we've been working on it and in serve-and-pass, and practice at CSUN (on Thursday ). We just made sure (Thelle ) knows exactly what we want and in the in-game situations he's been able to perform really well."
CSUN middle blocker Daniel Wetter led the Matadors with 14 kills in 29 attempts. Maciej Ptaszynski added 10 kills for CSUN, which hit.221 and finished with 81 /2 blocks.
Hawaii took control of the opening set with a 7-1 run to take a 13-7 lead and led by as many as 11 in cruising to the win. The Warriors were even more efficient in the second set, hitting.600, and closed with a 4-1 run to take a commanding lead.
CSUN came up with five blocks in winning the third set and a run of five straight UH hitting errors helped the Matadors take an 18-16 lead. The Matadors extended the match with a block of Parapunov on set point.
"These are talented teams, " Wade said. "I've had Northridge in my poll since they played and I got to see them on video. That's a talented team and Wetter's as good a middle as there is in the country and they made some plays in the third set, we made a few errors, a few more than we usually do, and that's why you play three out of five."
The Warriors found their rhythm again in the fourth set and led 14-9 when Parapunov and Gasman combined on a block. UH remained in control through Parapunov's cross-court kill on its second attempt at match point.