For the third straight season, the University of Hawaii men’s volleyball team will be playing for a national title.
The Rainbow Warriors avenged a pair of losses to Ball State earlier in the season with a 28-26, 19-25, 20-25, 25-20, 15-11 thriller over the Cardinals in Thursday’s NCAA semifinal matchup to advance to Saturday’s national title match.
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Back in January, setter Jakob Thelle, middle blocker Guilherme Voss and outside hitter Chaz Galloway were unavailable against the Cardinals. On Thursday, all three started, with Thelle making his presence felt a match-high 56 assists and four service aces.
After squandering a 20-12 lead that allowed Ball State to serve for set point in the first set, the Rainbow Warriors rallied and recovered to take the set. After Hawaii took a 3-0 lead to start the second set, the Cardinals handily took the next two sets.
With its season on the line, Hawaii took the fourth set and jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the decisive fifth set and used that momentum to cruise to victory.
Dimitrios Mouchlias and Spyros Chakas each had 19 kills to pace the Rainbow Warriors, while Chakas had 10 digs for a double-double. Meanwhile, libero Brett Sheward kept the ‘Bows afloat with a match-high 16 digs.
For Ball State, Kaleb Jenness had a double-double of 18 kills and 11 digs to go with six blocks, while Angelos Mandilaris added 15 kills.
Hawaii improves to 26-5, while Ball State’s 2022 campaign ends at 23-4.
The ‘Bows advance to play Long Beach State, with first serve set for 2 p.m. HST at the Pauley Pavillion in Los Angeles. UH is 1-2 against The Beach, with its lone victory a sweep in the Big West Conference championship match on April 23.
Saturday’s contest will be a rematch of the 2019 national championship match, which was won by LBSU in four sets.
Stay with KHON2 on air and online for continuing coverage.