In a match it needed to win to keep its postseason hopes alive, the University of Hawaii men’s volleyball team swept UC Santa Barbara 25-18, 26-24, 25-14 in the Big West Conference tournament semifinals on Friday night at SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center.

The Rainbow Warriors improve to 23-5 for the 2022 season and advance to face top seed Long Beach State in Saturday’s night’s championship match, which begins at 7:30 p.m. Meanwhile, UCSB’s season has most likely come to an end at 19-9.

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Although the Rainbow Warriors entered the week ranked No. 4 nationally in the AVCA Division I-II coaches poll and No. 6 in RPI, Thursday losses by No. 1 UCLA and No. 2 Penn State in its respective conference tournaments elevated the stakes tenfold for Hawaii due to the fact that the seven-team NCAA tournament only selects two at-large teams.

On Saturday, the Rainbow Warriors cruised through the first set before a UCSB 5-0 in the second set gave the Gauchos an 18-16 lead. However, the ‘Bows eventually prevailed in deuces and used that momentum to breeze through the third set and secure the victory.

Dimitrios Mouchlias had a match-high 15 kills for the Rainbow Warriors, while Jakob Thelle set the table with a team-high 33 assists. For UCSB, Punahou alumnus Ryan Wilcox had a team-high 13 kills.

Hawaii has not played in the Big West finals since 2019, also against Long Beach State at home.