IT’S HAWAII 5-0
Hawaii sweeps Grand Canyon for its best start since 1996
Rado Parapunov has played in many arenas in many countries while on the Bulgarian national team. But nowhere, the Hawaii freshman opposite said, compares with playing in the Stan Sheriff Center.
After experiencing “The Stan” while on the sidelines with a knee injury the past four matches, Parapunov finally got the full-on court experience Friday night.
Putting down five kills was just the icing as No. 6 Hawaii swept Grand Canyon 25-16, 25-16, 25-20 to improve to 5-0 for the first time since 1996.
“I’m feeling pretty amazing,” the 6-foot-9 Parapunov said. “My first game of the season there were plusses and minuses … I’ll be ready the next time.
“It’s unbelievable playing in ‘The Stan.’ Nothing feels like here, with the whole crowd standing behind me even when I make a mistake. It was a very important win as we go play on the road for big matches.”
A crowd of 2,179 saw the Rainbow Warriors conclude their opening homestand with a fourth sweep in five matches. Hawaii opens its final Mountain Pacific Sports Federation season Wednesday at No. 3 Long Beach State (4-1, 1-1 MPSF), a trip that has the Warriors playing three matches in four days.
“It was a really good win and gives us a push as we go on the road,” added sophomore hitter Brett Rosenmeier, who served the final four points of the 97-minute match. “It was good to get UH’s Kupono Fey smothered this kill attempt by Grand Canyon hitter Will Schwob in the first set.
“It was so exciting (serving at the end). And when everyone is doing that clap (the Viking Chant on aloha ball) it’s intimidating.”
So was Hawaii sophomore opposite Stijn van Tilburg, who had 17 kills, including the match-ender, and hit
.536 with just two errors. Freshman hitter Austin Matautia added seven kills and two aces playing in the first two sets as the Warriors used 12 players.
For Grand Canyon (1-3), junior hitter Shaleve Saada had nine kills.
Closing out their fourth sweep was anything but easy for the Warriors. With both teams trying new lineups, Set 3 was as ragged as it was tight.
It was tied 11 times, the last at 20. Grand Canyon lost a critical replay challenge that would have tied it at 21 had it gone the Antelopes’ way. Instead the original ruling that Saada’s attack hit the antenna was confirmed, giving Hawaii the lead at 2220.
Just as critical was Warriors coach Charlie Wade’s decision to bring back 6-5 senior setter Jennings Franciskovic for 6-0 sophomore
Joe Worsley, the latter who had started Set 3. Franciskovic returned at 21-20 specifically to shore up the right-side block. It worked, with Franciskovic teaming up with freshman middle Patrick Gasman to stuff Saada at 23-20.
“It was fun tonight,” Franciskovic said. “At the end we were able to put some big blocks.
“We tried some new things, and that’s something you’ll see a lot from us this season. The focus now is on our big road matches. We need to come out just as strong as we have at home.”
Hawaii was never threatened in Set 1. An ace by Matautia highlighted a 4-0 run that gave the Warriors the lead for good at 5-2.
At 19-11, Hawaii swapped setters — Worsley for Franciskovic — and opposites — Parapunov for van Tilburg — with no dropoff. The lefthanded Parapunov put down two of his three attempts and the freshman middle added his fourth kill to end it.
While the Warriors continued to get better with their attacks — just one hitting error in their first 14 swings in Set 2 (.571) — it was a different story from the service line. Hawaii kept Grand Canyon in it early with three service errors, the third bringing the Lopes to 9-5.
The Warriors pulled away with van Tilburg adding three more kills. By the time they made the double switch, it was 16-11.
Worsley had an ace and Parapuov two kills as Hawaii started eyeing its fourth sweep.
Technically Hawaii last started 5-0 in 2003. The Warriors opened 4-0, then dropped an exhibition match to China’s Shanghai Oriental, a match that was part of the Outrigger Resorts Invitational but did not count in their overall record. The Warriors then beat Stanford to go 5-0.
UH hitter Patrick Gasman hammered a kill past Grand Canyon middle blocker Drake Silbernagel (24) and setter Zachary Melcher (15) during the first set at the Stan Sheriff Center on Friday.