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Hawaii men’s volleyball team sweeps BYU to capture NCAA championship

  • VIDEO COURTESY NCAA; PHOTOS BY AP

    The top-seeded Rainbow Warriors captured the NCAA men's volleyball championship with a 25-21, 25-19, 25-16 sweep of No. 2 BYU on Saturday in Columbus, Ohio. Head coach Charlie Wade, senior outside hitter Colton Cowell and senior opposite Rado Parapunov shared their thoughts after the game.

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
                                Hawaii’s Spyros Chakas (back) and Gage Worsley (6) celebrate after Hawaii defeated BYU in the final of the NCAA men’s volleyball tournament today in Columbus, Ohio.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Hawaii’s Spyros Chakas (back) and Gage Worsley (6) celebrate after Hawaii defeated BYU in the final of the NCAA men’s volleyball tournament today in Columbus, Ohio.

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
                                BYU’s Gabi Garcia Fernandez (5) hits the ball as Hawaii’s Patrick Gasman (15) and Jakob Thelle (10) go for a block during the NCAA men’s volleyball championship match today in Columbus, Ohio.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

    BYU’s Gabi Garcia Fernandez (5) hits the ball as Hawaii’s Patrick Gasman (15) and Jakob Thelle (10) go for a block during the NCAA men’s volleyball championship match today in Columbus, Ohio.

COLUMBUS, Ohio >> Hawaii served notice that it is indeed the best men’s volleyball team in the land.

And it wasn’t close.

The top-seeded Rainbow Warriors served up 10 aces and captured the national championship with a 25-21, 25-19, 25-16 sweep of No. 2 BYU today at the Covelli Center on the Ohio State campus.

>> LIVE BLOG: Hawaii claims NCAA men’s college volleyball national championship

>> RELATED: UH to host drive-by celebration on Sunday

>> PHOTOS: Hawaii sweeps BYU in final

UH senior Rado Parapunov closed his decorated career with 13 kills while hitting .357. Senior middle blocker Patrick Gasman finished with seven kills and hammered match point to give the Warriors the title. Senior outside hitter Colton Cowell also put away seven kills.

“Long time coming,” UH coach Charlie Wade said. “We are supported at a level in our community that college athletes don’t typically see. Not only is this win for the fans of Hawaii, but it is because of the fans of Hawaii.

“The support and the mana, the energy the fans bring to us, it’s an unbelievable feeling. This was a culmination of a lot of hard work.”

Two years after falling in the title match to Long Beach State, the Rainbow Warriors completed their quest to capture the national championship with a victory over another long-time nemesis.

The much-anticipated matchup was between the country’s top two teams over the last two seasons. UH hit .381 to BYU’s .262 in a blowout of the Cougars some 14 months after a dramatic five-set comeback over the Cougars at the Stan Sheriff Center.

Today’s win closed the careers of Cowell, Gasman and Parapunov as well as juniors Gage Worsley and Jackson Van Eekeren, who also completed their college careers with the title the Warriors coveted since falling to Long Beach State in the 2019 final.

“We’ve been working for this for the last two years,” Cowell said. “For it to come full circle is really special.”

UH hit .400 in the opening set to BYU’s .227 and pulled away late thanks to a serving run by freshman Spyros Chakas.

BYU opened the match with back-to-back blocks and UH answered with a 3-0 run with Cowell serving an ace into the middle of the Cougar defense. The set remained tight and BYU took a 19-18 lead after a UH hitting error.

Parapunov tied it up with his fourth kill of the set and Chakas went on a four-point serving run. A tough serve forced a free ball from the Cougars and Parapunov capitalized to give UH a 23-20 edge. BYU fought off one set point before the Cougars served long to give UH the set.

Jakob Thelle fired an ace on his first serving turn of the second set and added another on his next turn as part of a 6-0 UH run that gave the Warriors a 16-8 lead.

Down 17-9, BYU put together a 5-1 run to creep back into the set. Parapunov hammered a kill off the block for a sideout and served three consecutive aces to stretch the UH lead to 23-19. Cowell put away his sixth kill on set point to move UH one set away from the title.

Thelle opened the third set with his third ace of the match and Cowell got a serve to drop in off the tape to give UH a 4-1 lead.

UH led 12-6 when Parapunov posted his 10th kill, pushing him to double digits for the 23rd consecutive match dating back to last season. BYU responded with a 5-1 run and closed to 13-11 when Punahou graduate Wil Stanley pounded a UH free-ball for a kill.

A block by Guilherme Voss and Thelle gave UH a 16-12 lead and the Warriors stretched the lead to 18-13 when a BYU challenge after Garcia Fernandez hit long was denied.

UH effectively wrapped up the title with a five-point run, moving to match point on Thelle’s fourth ace and Parapunov’s 13th kill.

BYU fought off one match point before Gasman put away the final kill of his career to trigger the UH celebration.

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