University of Hawaii volleyball holds off Long Beach State to win Big West title
Wasn’t that fun? Even if Hawaii and Long Beach State meet two weekends from now for the NCAA championship, the atmosphere in the Walter Pyramid will pale in comparison to what the Rainbow Warriors, 49ers and some 9,500 of their closest friends experienced Saturday at the Stan Sheriff Center.
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Wasn’t that fun?
Even if Hawaii and Long Beach State meet two weekends from now for the NCAA championship, the atmosphere in the Walter Pyramid will pale in comparison to what the Rainbow Warriors, 49ers and some 9,500 of their closest friends experienced Saturday at the Stan Sheriff Center.
With the Warriors playing in front of their third sold-out crowd in as many Saturdays — following both teams’ senior nights — the Big West tournament championship match was one for the ages.
No one fell asleep in this one. And it ended close to 11 p.m. after 2 hours and 50 minutes of play.
And no one left, celebrating along with the Warriors during the trophy presentation.
Led by senior Stijn van Tilburg’s 25 kills with no errors and junior hitter Colton Cowell’s career-high 18 kills and 12 digs, second-seeded Hawaii earned its first conference tournament title, upsetting top-seeded Long Beach State 25-15, 25-23, 22-25, 20-25, 15-8.
The Warriors (27-2) finished 16-0 at home and tied the program record for most wins. It was Hawaii’s first win in a conference final in six tries.
Although Hawaii defeated Long Beach State on Saturday, the 49ers could be the top seed in the NCAA tournament by virtue of having beaten the Warriors twice in the regular season. All three matches went to five.
“I would think we’re the one seed, but at the end of the day, they’re going to do what they’re going to do,” Hawaii coach Charlie Wade said. “All season we said there’s one game that will be played in the Stan Sheriff Center that will get us in the NCAA tournament. We wanted to be in it. We wanted to win it. And we did.
“This was an unbelievable night. This win wasn’t for our fans. It was because of our fans.”
“Hands down, it’s the best place to play in the country,” added setter Joe Worsley, one of four Warriors seniors. “This was our last time playing in here and it was amazing. You couldn’t hear each other talk.
“On that last serve, we have a phrase: ‘Bring it.’ There was nothing to lose. Colton even came up to me and said, ‘Go for it.’”
Worsley went for it, with the 49ers sending the overpass to the net, where Hawaii senior middle Dalton Solbrig tapped it back down.
“It was so loud,” van Tilburg said. “Hats off to Long Beach State. They are great players. It’s been great to have that one team when you’re in the gym they’re in your heads and you’re thinking ‘They’re in their gym getting better too.’
“This was incredible, an amazing place to play and both sides will never forget it,” Long Beach State coach Alan Knipe said. “It’s great for men’s volleyball.
“What did you expect? Another five-gamer with Hawaii. I haven’t thought about (the selection), but it will be 1-2 with the two of us.”
Conference player of the year Kyle Ensing finished with 21 kills and 2017 national player of the year TJ DeFalco added 19 kills and 10 digs for Long Beach State (26-2). The 49ers were the only top seed not to win their tournament and the only top seed not to have been playing at home.
Pepperdine won the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament by sweeping USC 25-23, 25-21, 27-25; Lewis swept Loyola, 25-17, 25-18, 25-19 for the MIVA; and Princeton will make its first NCAA appearance in 21 years after outlasting Penn State 28-26, 22-25, 25-18, 20-25, 15-13 in the EIVA.
Earlier in the week top-seeded Barton won the Conference Carolinas tournament when turning back King in five.
The other at-large likely will go to USC, although also under consideration are UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara.
The NCAA selection show is scheduled for today at 7 a.m. on NCAA.com.
“They’re a great team, we’re a great team,” DeFalco said. “When two great teams play it’s a great match.”