IT’S HAWAII 5-0

Hawaii sweeps Grand Canyon for its best start since 1996

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - SPORTS - By Cindy Luis cluis@starad­ver­tiser.com

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.

Rado back.

“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.

Note

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.

PHO­TOS BY JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARAD­VER­TISER.COM

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.

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