Patrick Gasman beamed like a proud uncle.
The Hawaii senior middle blocker had a good night, sure. Five kills on .400 hitting and three block assists in a second straight sweep of Charleston, 25-18, 25-16, 25-17 on Saturday.
But that wasn’t the reason for the big grin. It had more to do with the procession of first-timers that had just graced the Stan Sheriff Center court for the 2-0 Rainbow Warriors.
“It’s really good to get a lot of guys in. We got like 14 guys in yesterday, probably about the same number tonight. And it’s really good to get all these younger guys experience that might not be getting it later on in the season,” Gasman mused.
Making their official debuts were: liberos Shea Suzumoto and ‘Eleu Choy; hitter/opposite Cole Hogland; and middle/opposite Alaka‘i Todd. They were among the 15 to see action on the night as UH led comfortably almost the whole way. Backups like James Anastassiades, Dimitrios Mouchlias, Guilherme Voss, Brett Sheward and Devon Johnson saw time, too. Also, freshman Chaz Galloway joined the Rainbows on the bench for the first time this season after being away from the team for oral surgery.
Coach Charlie Wade began breaking some in as early as midway through Set 1.
“I think they handled it really well,” Gasman said. “Alaka‘i got in today, Max (setter Van Eekeren) got in yesterday. I’ve been like, I don’t want to say mentoring them, but they ask me questions all the time. Like, how do they do this, how do they do that. Seeing them put it to work and getting game experience is huge. Going from practice to the game is way different, and seeing them be able to excel in those positions is awesome.”
Hogland had one of the signature moments of the night, when he solo blocked Charleston’s Jake Vorburger to set up match point.
“I told (Hogland), ‘hey, they haven’t set this middle in a while. I’m going to commit with him, and you’re going to be alone (on the outside),'” Gasman recounted excitedly. “And he did exactly what he does in practice, gets up really big and smothers the ball.” The 6-foot-10 All-American laughed.
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“You can’t really describe it. It all hits you all at once,” Hogland, who watched last year’s 28-3 team exclusively from the sidelines, said of his first moments on the floor. “You might be nervous, but everyone else helps you. Colton (Cowell) and Pat certainly helped me calm my nerves a little bit. From there on out, I just had to keep going.”
UH will face better competition — the Golden Eagles failed to crack 20 points in any set on either night — possibly as soon as next week’s Raising Cane’s Rainbow Warrior Classic, a three-matches-in-three-nights setup against Emmanuel College, Harvard and Grand Canyon beginning Thursday.
A little seasoning for the newbies now could go a long way later, the reasoning goes.
Gasman noted the team’s practices have been highly competitive, with the “B” side taking two of five games regularly from the “A” side. That said, nothing beats actual game experience.
“I was telling someone, they were asking me, ‘hey, how are you guys going to be in later years?'” he said. “I was like, ‘oh, we’re going to be fine.’ And after we leave, we’re leaving a good culture and legacy for them. They’re living it right now.”