Hawaii vol­ley­ball has a good day at the Beach

Fey and Rain­bow War­riors kick sand on BYU, but pow­er­ful 49ers are wait­ing

Hawaii Tribune Herald - - FRONT PAGE - By KEVIN JAKAHI

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.

UH-Manoa photo

Hawaii se­nior out­side hit­ter Kupono Fey has his team fired up and ready to take on Long Beach State in the MPSF cham­pi­onship.

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