Rainbow Warrior volleyball: Finding a way

Hawaii outside hitter Stijn van Tilburg waved shakes to the crowd after the 'Bows defeated UC Santa Barbara on Friday. / Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell, Star-Advertiser

UC Santa Barbara brought the block to the party.

Hawaii supplied everything else Friday night.

The rollicking Rainbow Warriors were turned back at the net more times against the Gauchos than at any other point in 2019, and it hardly mattered in a 25-18, 25-22, 25-16 sweep of the visitors in front of a raucous, season-high turnstile crowd of 6,969.

Top-ranked UH (24-0) extended its record season set streak to 72 and has its first sellout crowd since 1997 to look forward to on senior night Saturday.

Red-hot Rado Parapunov, the Big West player of the week in four of the last five weeks, got off to a slow start but finished with 20 kills on 29 swings. Setter Joe Worsley dealt 37 assists and dug nine balls while his brother, libero Gage, also dug nine.

No. 3 UCSB, featuring Punahou graduate Ryan Wilcox, came in looking to break the stranglehold that UH and No. 2 Long Beach State have had on the Big West Conference this season — and men’s college volleyball as a whole. The Gauchos boasted legit size; their setter, Randy DeWeese, is 6 feet 6, and 6-11 middle Jack Truman stood taller than any ‘Bow. The defensive-minded Gauchos recorded nine blocks before UH picked up its first. (The final blocks tally was 11.5 to 4.0.)

Truman (six blocks), outside hitter Corey Chavers (six) and opposite Frederick Spencer (five) were particularly active at the net. There were several moments when UH would make an outstanding pickup, eliciting a roar from the crowd, only to have the ball swatted straight down by the vigilant Gauchos when the ‘Bows attempted to play it over.

But coach Charlie Wade was not overly concerned.

“Their blocks came in our transition attacking, mostly,” he said. “We’d get it back on our side for a point, and then just (be) a little too terminal. I think Joe, as our conversations went on through the night, he knew he made some choices that trapped some guys. He set a couple balls that I’m sure he’d like to have back. So it is nice when you’re able to win when you’re not playing your best and you’ve got some different ways to win.”

UH came in hitting .478 on the season, representing an NCAA record, and finished at .282 Friday. Speaking to UH’s all-around excellence, the match still wasn’t close. The only time UH had to dig deep was in the second set, and when UH picked up its first block, it was huge — a collaboration from Colton Cowell and Patrick Gasman for a 23-21 lead.

“Some of the out-of-system plays, we just gotta make smarter swings on them. They’ve got a lot of really good athletes on that team, a lot of really good blocking,” said senior middle Dalton Solbrig. “They definitely did their scouting, too. … They knew where we were going to hit. But just taking smarter swings. Not trying to hit over, or bounce it (off). Just taking good swings.”

UH adjusted and Set 3 went like so many others this season. Quickly.

Wade thinks Saturday night’s rematch in the 10,300-seat Stan Sheriff Center will feature the biggest crowd to watch a men’s volleyball game in the U.S. since that 1997 senior night sellout against USC. UH’s seniors are Solbrig, Joe Worsley, Brett Rosenmeier and Stijn van Tilburg.

“Getting a sold-out crowd for them is really gratifying,” he said. “All the hard work they put into it, both the students here at the university, and just as athletes traveling around and representing the university. Nice for them to be able to experience something like that. From the program’s standpoint, just really appreciative and really humbled by how much aloha there’s been for this team and this program. I think we put on a good product, and people are happy when they come out. So hopefully we can continue to build this and hopefully we get men’s volleyball to have crowds like this frequently.”

UH fans clapped during aloha ball vs. UC Santa Barbara on Friday. / Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell, Star-Advertiser


  1. 808 April 6, 2019 4:32 am

    So when was the last sellout? Initial media reports refer to 1997 as being the last sellout and the media guide has 1997 as the last sellout, against USC. But there are recent statements in the media that the last sellout was in 2007 (against USC). Which is it?

  2. Brian McInnis April 6, 2019 5:13 pm

    Hey 808,

    It is confirmed as 1997 USC.

  3. 808 April 6, 2019 5:34 pm

    Thanks for checking that. Cindy Luis’ article this morning had a box that mentioned 2007 as the last sellout.

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