The fourth-ranked University of Hawai’i men’s volleyball team successfully defended its homecourt in its season opener for the sixth consecutive year with a straight-set win over NJIT Thursday night on the first day of the Hawaiian Airlines Rainbow Warrior Classic at the Stan Sheriff Center. Set scores were 25-17, 25-11, 25-13.
In the teams’ first meeting since 2009, the Rainbow Warriors (1-0) hit .619 for the match and served 12 aces. Outside hitter Colton Cowell was nearly perfect offensively with 12 kills in 15 attempts and no errors, hitting .800. He also added three digs and three blocks.
“I’m incredibly excited for the opportunities that have happened this year. I’m playing with an incredible team in front of the best fans in the world in one of the best places to play volleyball also, so, it’s a pretty special feeling,” Cowell told KHON2 Sports Director Rob DeMello following the match.
Outside hitter Stijn van Tilburg recorded 11 kills, hitting .562 while setter Joe Worsley (5) and middle blocker Dalton Solbrig (4) and combined for nine aces.
Alvaro Gimeno led the Highlanders with 11 kills, hitting .526.
UH fell behind 9-6 to start Set 1. The Warriors evened the match at 11-11 and took a 19-15 lead behind the serving of Worsley. UH extended its lead to 22-16 with four unanswered capped by van Tilburg’s fifth kill and first service ace and closed out the set on a 10-2 run.
Set 2 was all Hawai’i as the Warriors jumped out to a 14-2 lead, including eight straight with Solbrig serving three aces during the run. The advantage was 18-3 after Worsley’s third ace and UH closed out the set with five aces in the frame to take a 2-0 lead in the match.
With a tinkered lineup in Set 3, the Warriors continued their dominance at the service line taking an 18-11 lead after an ace by Brett Rosenmeier. UH’s 6-0 run propelled them to a 25-13 victory and the sweep.
“I think that this team is capable of I’m sure what every fan in here wants us to communicate to them and that’s to win a national championship and compete at the highest level to the best of our abilities. We have a lot of talented players. We would love to come into this tournament and play our hearts out and come out to the court every night and let them know that we’re defending our ohana and defending pride rock,” added Cowell.
UH will face Concordia-Irvine on Friday on Day 2 of the tournament. In the opening match of the tournament, USC swept CUI, 25-14, 25-18, 25-14. Jack Wyett led all hitters with 15 kills, hitting .370. As a team, the Trojans hit .395 compared to .105 for the Eagles.