COLUMBUS, Ohio >> Hawaii advanced to its second straight national championship match with a sweep of UC Santa Barbara in today’s NCAA men’s volleyball tournament semifinal match at the Covelli Center.
UH senior Rado Parapunov, who was named the AVCA National Player of the Year on Wednesday, put away 12 kills, including match point, and fellow seniors Patrick Gasman and Colton Cowell added 10 each for the Rainbow Warriors (16-1).
Gasman hit .625 (10-for-16, no errors) and was in on six of UH’s 13.5 blocks. Parapunov hit .143 for the match but contributed 11 digs and five blocks in the Rainbow Warriors’ 25-21, 25-18, 25-23 win on the Ohio State campus.
“Thrilled to get the win against a very good team, we knew it was going to be a battle,” UH coach Charlie Wade said. “The game at one point gets relatively simple, the serve and pass. When (we) had good service turns and received better we were able to make a run at them. I thought in particular our block was good early and often and really influenced the match.”
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Top-seeded UH (16-1) advances to play in Saturday’s final against No. 2 seed BYU. The Cougars (20-3) joined the Warriors in the final with a 25-22, 25-15, 26-28, 25-20 win over Lewis in today’s second semifinal. The national championship match is set for 2 p.m. Saturday and will be shown on ESPNU.
The Warriors and Cougars ended the 2020 season by splitting a series at the Stan Sheriff Center. BYU swept UH in the opener and the Warriors rallied from two sets down to win in five in the final match of the season. The teams have occupied the top two spots in the national polls for the entire season.
UH reached the final in 2019 and ended that season with a loss to Long Beach State. Their quest to earn another shot at a title was cut short by last year’s mid-season cancellation and the Warriors will make the program’s fourth appearance in the championship match on Saturday.
“It’s amazing,” Parapunov said. “I think tonight we played our best game knowing what’s on the line and when Patrick plays like that I don’t think anyone can stop us. It was very emotional. We were very excited and we knew if we don’t play good Santa Barbara can beat us. We gave them the most respect and we put our foot on the gas all the way to the end.”
UC Santa Barbara opposite Randy DeWeese had a match-high 13 kills, but the Gauchos (16-5) hit .170 for the match and saw their 11-match winning streak with their fourth loss to UH this season and 10th straight in the series with the Warriors.
UCSB, the Big West tournament champion, opened the match with two natural points and led 10-9 before UH went on a 5-1 run capped by a block by Parapunov on Punahou alumnus Ryan Wilcox. The Gauchos would tie the set twice at 15-15 and 18-18 only to see UH surge away again on a Parapunov kill, a triple block by Cowell, Gasman and Parapunov and an ace by Jakob Thelle.
Gasman pounded a kill then teamed with Chaz Galloway on a block to push UH’s lead to 23-19. A Parapunov kill gave UH set point and he combined with Guilherme Voss on UH’s sixth block to end the set.
The Warriors opened the second set with a successful challenge on a Cowell kill attempt that initially ruled out. A touch was called on the review and UH took control of the set with a 6-1 run. The Warriors continued to pull away and led 20-11 on an ace by Kana’i Akana to cap a three-point serving run off the bench.
UCSB hit .000 in the set with eight kills and eight errors and would get no closer than six for the remainder of the set. Cowell put away his seventh kill to end the set and give UH a 2-0 lead in the match.
The teams traded the lead early in the third set until UH went on a 6-0 run with Thelle forcing an overpass that Gasman put away and firing his third ace of the match to give UH a 17-12 lead.
UH maintained the lead and UCSB held off one match point before Parapunov ended the match to send UH to the final.