No. 6 Hawaii came within one point of ending No. 1 Long Beach State’s perfect season tonight, only to fall short after 3 hours and 13 minutes. The Rainbow Warriors had four swings at winning the marathon, only to walk out of the Stan Sheriff Center after a 25-16, 17-25, 26-24, 25-27, 22-20 Big West loss.
Junior hitter Stijn van Tilburg and sophomore opposite Rado Parapunov each had 20 kills, but it was not enough, as the 49ers (24-0, 9-0) defeated the Warriors for a sixth consecutive time. Reigning national player of the year TJ DeFalco had a match-high 22 kills with 13 digs to break the hearts of 3,877 fans.
“We played well enough to win,” Hawaii coach Charlie Wade said. “Being down in the fifth (as much as 10-7) and battling back … I’m proud of the guys and how they played.
“If that’s the No. 1 team in the country, we’re damn close. We just have to play better tomorrow. When we served well, that was the difference. We were able to get them out of system.”
Hawaii had 19 service errors, just one in Set 5. That came at 14-12, when freshman defensive specialist Gage Worsley’s error gave the 49ers some hope and they used a hitting error by sophomore middle Patrick Gasman to tie at 14.
In their first five-setter of the season, the Warriors (17-7, 5-4) had four set points, the last at 19-18. The 49ers rode the arm of DeFalco at the end, with the junior hitter putting down his team’s last three kills and The Beach getting their 14th block by stuffing van Tilburg.