Hawaii men’s volleyball sweeps BYU to win first-ever NCAA championship

Sports

Hawaii players celebrate during the NCAA men’s college volleyball tournament in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

The one thing eluding the University of Hawaii men’s volleyball program in its storied history came to fruition on Saturday at the Covelli Center in Columbus, Ohio.

The Rainbow Warriors won the 2021 national championship with a 25-21, 25-19, 25-16 sweep over BYU. It is the first NCAA title in program history. Although the ‘Bows won the 2002 national title match over Pepperdine, UH was stripped of the title after Costas Theocharidis was ruled ineligible by the NCAA.

Hawaii left no doubt on Saturday, finishing its 2021 campaign at 17-1, while BYU drops to 20-4.

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Colton Cowell was blocked twice as BYU took a 2-0 lead in the first set, but the Rainbow Warriors went on to take the set 25-21 as freshman Chaz Galloway had three kills, four blocks and a dig with no errors.

Hawaii stormed out to a 16-8 lead in the second set. After BYU made a run to cut its deficit to 18-14, UH made another run of its own, led by three consecutive service aces by AVCA Player of the Year Rado Parapunov to stretch its lead to 23-14.

The third and final set was all ‘Bows, who won completed the sweep with their largest set margin win over the Cougars in the last two seasons. The ‘Bows have taken six straight sets off BYU, dating back to 2020.

Parapunov, who was named the NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player afterwards, led the way for the Rainbow Warriors on Saturday with 13 kills and seven digs, which were both match highs. Setter Jakob Thelle dished out a match-high 36 assists, while Patrick Gasman and Colton Cowell added seven kills each.

Although the Rainbow Warriors were plagued by 20 service errors in its 2019 national title match loss to Long Beach State, the ‘Bows were aided by 10 service aces against the Cougars on Saturday.

2020 AVCA Player of the Year Gabi Garcia Fernandez led BYU with a team-high 12 kills on Saturday, while Punahou alum and first-team All-American setter Wil Stanley had 29 assists for the Cougars.

When the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the 2020 college volleyball season, players were given an extra year of eligibility. Cowell, Parapunov and Gasman served as Hawaii’s main returnees who would not have been able to play in 2021 under normal circumstances. On Saturday, the ‘Bows accomplished their main goal, winning a national championship years in the making.

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