Hawaii volleyball has a good day at the Beach
Fey and Rainbow Warriors kick sand on BYU, but powerful 49ers are waiting
Kupono Fey picked a perfect time to produce a season-high 16 kills on a .464 hitting clip for Hawaii, which is a win away from its first Mountain Pacific Sports Federation title.
Behind Fey’s power hitting, the Rainbow Warriors avenged two earlier losses and ousted BYU 25-22, 25-23, 25-22 in the semifinals Thursday at the Walter Pyramid in Long Beach, Calif.
In the other semifinal, Long Beach State defeated UC Irvine 25-19, 25-22, 25-19.
No. 3 seed UH (26-4) faces No. 1 seed Long Beach State (26-3) for the MPSF championship in Hawaii’s last-shot bid. The winner earns an automatic berth to the NCAA championships.
Next season, the Rainbow Warriors will join the Big West Conference.
UH sophomore opposite Stijn van Tilburg added 12 kills and senior middle Hendrik Mol had eight kills without an error. Mol was part of five of his team’s 7 ½ blocks.
In the third set, Fey, a senior outside hitter, had three late kills and served an ace as the Rainbow Warriors closed with a 10-4 scoring run.
UH had a .429 hitting percentage while the Cougars had a .388 hitting clip and finished with five blocks.
The Rainbow Warriors nailed just four aces, only one more than the Cougars, but UH coach Charlie Wade pointed out that tough serving set the tone. Both teams finished with nine service errors.
“Really nice performance from the service line,” he said. “That’s kind of how we’re built. We have to keep pressure on the service line to set up the defense.”
Jake Langlois and Ben Patch had 15 and 14 kills, respectively, for BYU (242), which entered the tournament with a 1-5 career record against UH.
Fey enjoyed the big-game
environment, especially on a neutral court against the Cougars, who beat UH twice in Provo during the regular season.
“It gives me goosebumps just talking about it,” he said. “It’s what we play for. It’s what coach prepares us for.
“Neutral court, we wanted to take it and just be aggressive. We went into their gym on our heels, but today we wanted to attack and be aggressive.”
In the first set, it was tied 21-21, and Hawaii reeled off three straight points, including two on Cougar errors. Van Tilburg knocked down set point.
The second set was a backand-forth point roller-coaster down the stretch.
BYU led 18-16, but UH answered with a 6-2 run for a 22-20 lead. The Cougars jumped ahead 23-22, but Hawaii countered with three straight points, capped by consecutive roofs by Patrick Gasman, who had five blocks.
Back in January, the 49ers defeated the Rainbow Warriors twice.
BYU couldn’t hit a triple on a neutral court.
But the Beach is playing in the comforts of home.
In the two earlier matches, Kyle Ensing had 24 and 11 kills and hit .404 and .579, respectively, in a five-set victory and sweep. UH figures to build a roof over the 6-foot-7 sophomore opposite.
Last season, BYU won the MPSF championship and Long Beach State earned a NCAA play-in match berth.
Hawaii was 16-12 last season, including 11-11 in the MPSF, and lost to UCLA in the quarterfinals.
A year later, there are no old ghosts to chase. The Rainbow Warriors are only thinking about winning their first MPSF title and nothing else.
There’s one more huge hurdle to go. Ensing will be waiting, and he’s a handful. But taking down the Cougars, no easy task, was the first step.
“It’s big. It’s one more step to go and get us to qualify for NCAAs,” Wade said. “I think this team is good enough to win a national championship. That’s certainly the goal. We won’t qualify unless we win the tournament.”
Saturday’s championship match at 4 p.m. HST can be viewed online at FloVolleyball.tv.
Hawaii senior outside hitter Kupono Fey has his team fired up and ready to take on Long Beach State in the MPSF championship.