It’s Saturday night. SimpliFi Arena is artificially rocking. Rainbow Warriors All-American Rado Parapunov serves up the “Aloha Ball.” Gage Worsley passes the tip return tight to the net for his setter. Jakob Thelle sees an lane and unleashes his left arm to end what is surely to become an instant classic between Long Beach State and the University of Hawai’i.
The sophomore from Norway is in the middle of a career season for UH, registering 413 assists in eleven matches. Thelle is second in the Big West with 10.59 assists per set. On Saturday night, in that 5-set win over rival Long Beach, Jakob set a new career high of 59 helpers. There is no doubt who the number-1 setter is on the top ranked ‘Bows.
“Just more command of running the offense. Typically, when a younger guy gets on the court with a bunch of veterans and he’s the setter. They’re always telling him where to get set. I think he’s done a better job of just running the offense and telling everybody what the plan is and sticking with it,” head coach Charlie Wade said during his media availability on Tuesday.
“I’m a lot more mentally stronger. I’ve also become better physically and also embracing the chance to play, not taking it for granted. Just doing my best every time I’m on the court and leaving everything out there,” Thelle said, “Right when I got home in March, the focus was always to come back better than when I left. So I just did a lot of practice by myself in quarantine back home. I did lots of weight lifting and tried to get mentally prepared for this season.”
The lefty adds another wrinkle to the Hawai’i offensive attack. He has three or more kills in four matches this year – a high of seven vs UCSD on March 27th. Head Coach Charlie Wade says his setter has ability to keep defenses guessing with his hitting ability.
“As a setter you want to focus on the other opposing blockers. Any time I talk to Gage and he says ‘Jake, I’m going to set you this ball’ I’m like OK. I’m ready for it every time,” Thelle explained, “We have those conversations all the time and with Rado we have the same thing. I tell him if you give me one ball; I’ll give you ten more balls. So we always have this, I will always hit the ball if I’m open.”
The Rainbow Warriors are looking to keep their perfect season going as they head on the road to take on CSUN this weekend. First serve is at 1 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and will be streamed on BigWest.tv.