Moments after sweeping UCI in the first of two meetings, the Bows were already looking ahead to their second match against the ‘Eaters, one that they anticipated would require them to up their intensity.
Considering that the Bows demolished the ‘Eaters while hitting for .411 the night before, it was hard to imagine Hawaii topping that performance. Yet, that’s exactly what the Bows did, as they recorded a scorching .529 hitting percentage in another 3-0 (25-13, 25-22, 25-20) demolition over the host ‘Eaters.
“Coming off last night, [they’re] a really great team, [they’re] one of the top defensive teams in the country, and we knew it was going to be tough to score against them, so there was a few things we knew we needed to prepare against them,” Hawaii setter Joe Worsley said. “I’m so proud of our guys, there’s certain guys that stepped up big time this weekend and they’ve had a really good season so far but we know going forward it’s going to get tougher, and this kind of kicked off our conference play, but we’re excited overall by the win.”
To understand just how prolific Hawaii’s offense was , one needs to look no further than the individual hitting percentages of each of the Bows. With the exception of setter Joe Worsley who recorded a .000 percentage on one kill and one error on four attempts, the lowest hitting percentage by an Hawaii attacker was Colton Cowell’s .429. The rest of Hawaii’s six-man rotation all recorded a .500 hitting percentage or better.
In addition to their blistering offense, the Bows also asserted themselves at the net as they logged 12 total team blocks. The ‘Eaters, in contrast, only had four blocks.
Rado Parapunov once again led the Bows with a match-high 16 kills while .565 hitting percentage, alongside two service aces and four block assists. Stijn van Tilburg had 13 kills on a match-best .688 hitting, alongside four block assists of his own. Patrick Gasman had four-total blocks while Gage Worsley added six digs.
Aaron Koubi bounced back from a -.429 hitting performance in the first set to finish with a team-high 10 kills on a respectable .278 hitting percentage. Joel Schneidmiller and Alexandre Nsakanda added nine and eight kills respectively.
UC Irvine changed things up by starting setter Brian Garcia and opposite Alexandre Nsakanda in place of their usual starters, a move that Hawaii was well-prepared for.
“We were talking about certain guys that they might put in play and try to change things up So we gameplanned for it,” Joe Worsley said. “[Our coaches] really prepare us well for playing against anything we can see, cause we have a really unique team: We have lefties, we have guys that can jump, and different styles, so we pretty much see all kinds of styles every single day in practice. We’re used to seeing that type of stuff, so it just shows the guys we’re working with this year is a really special group of guys.”
The lineup did little for the ‘Eaters, as Hawaii limited Nskanda to one kills and a -.667 hitting percentage in the first, while holding the UCI offense to a season-worst -.238. Hawaii picked up right where they left off the night before, as they opened st one with three blocks and an ace to take an early 5-1 lead. UCI kept within two of Hawaii until the Bows opened up the game on a 6-0 run to go up 18-10. The ‘Eaters only salvaged three more points before the Bows ended the set on five unanswered points.
UCI ‘s struggles continued into the second set as they trailed 7-3, in a game that looked like it would be an encore of the first. However, a Dante Chakravorti substitution and a pair of consecutive aces by Joel Schneidmiller helped the ‘Eaters tie the game at 7-7, showing that they still had life in them yet. Aaron Koubi powered the ‘Eaters to a 11-10 lead off three kills, but that was only a quick respite as the Bows retook the lead for good off three unanswered points at 14-12. The ‘Eaters stayed close behind the Bows up until the waning moments of the set, but Hawaii managed to keep them at bay to close out the second 25-22.
As they had the previous two sets, Hawaii jumped out another early lead at 5-2, once again putting the ‘Eaters on the backfoot. And once again, the ‘Eaters would respond, going on a 7-3 run, capped off off three back-to-back kills by Koubi to take the lead at 9-8. Hawaii stormed back into the lead again off a block and Parapunov kill at 11-10, and both teams took turns siding out from then. At 17-all, Hawaii finally created some separation as scored three-straight to up 20-17 and prompt a UCI timeout. The lead proved too much for the ‘Eaters to overcome and the Bows would close out the set, and the match, 25-20 to hand UCI their second consecutive sweep.