It’s been a long time coming. Five years that, in volleyball years, feels more like 50.
No. 3 Hawaii did not waste its first home playoff hosting duties since 2010, defeating No. 11 Long Beach State 25-19, 26-24, 27-25. A Stan Sheriff Center crowd of 6,119 (6,846 tickets) watched the Rainbow Warriors (24-6) advance to Thursday’s Mountain Pacific Sports Federation semifinal against Pepperdine (18-5) at UC Irvine (2 p.m. Hawaii time).
The host Waves swept UC Santa Barbara 25-21, 25-23, 25-18. Showing the importance of home-court advantage, Saturday’s other quarterfinals also went the way of the home teams: top-seeded UC Irvine swept UCLA 25-17, 25-18, 25-15, and fourth-seeded USC held on against BYU 25-17, 20-25, 25-22, 23-25, 15-13. The Anteaters (20-3) take on the Trojans (16-7) in Thursday’s second semifinal.
Led by junior hitter Siki Zarkovic’s 18 kills and 17 from sophomore hitter Kupono Fey, Hawaii topped Long Beach State for the third time this season. It was also the Warriors’ first MPSF playoff victory since rallying past Pepperdine in five in 2010; Hawaii had been eliminated in the quarterfinals in 2011 and 2013, not making the playoffs in 2012 and 2014.
Hawaii controlled Set 1 from the start, sparked by eight kills from Fey, but needed an emotional comeback to take Set 2. The Warriors trailed the entire set, and were down by as much as 18-12 and 23-20.
The 49ers had two swings at ending it at 24-22 and 24-23. Zarkovic put down his ninth kill then teamed with Davis Holt to stuff John La Rusch to tie at 24. Holt followed with a solo block of Bryce Yould, giving Hawaii its first lead and the only set point that would be needed with Zarkovic’s cross-court shot to the right corner putting the Warriors up 2-0.
The 49ers would not go away. The Beach took advantage of six UH service errors in pulling out to a 19-14 lead.
Hawaii used two blocks to help close to 20-18 and, like Set 2, the Warriors got it to 23-20.
This time, Long Beach State had four chances to end it, starting at 24-20. Hawaii rallied to tie at 24 then 25.
Fey put down his last kill to give the Warriors match point and Yould’s hitting error finished off the comeback.
Junior hitter Dan Glamack led the 49ers (15-13) with 13 kills.
Hawaii outdug The Beach 54-47 with junior libero Kolby Kanetake finishing with 18 digs. Fey had 12 digs for his first double-double of the season.