Hawai’i puts away pesky Lewis to reach NCAA finals

Photo by Jonathan Bates

Middle attacker Patrick Gasman early in the third game with his team in the lead and serving cracked a giant smile while briefly chatting with a teammate.

Gasman isn’t the most emotional player Hawai’i. However, he had plenty of reasons to be enjoying himself on the court in the NCAA Tournament semifinals.

Gasman finished with a match-high eight blocks along with eight kills on a .583 attack percentage as Hawai’i swept Lewis 25-15, 25-17, 30-32, 25-16 on Thursday in Long Beach, California, to advance to the NCAA Tournament finals.

Hawai’i had 14 blocks in the postseason victory — 9.5 more blocks than Lewis. In addition, the Rainbow Warriors limited the Flyers to less than a .200 attack percentage in three of four games.

Hawai’i out-hit Lewis .368 to .221 and had three players with double-digit kills.

Outside attacker Colton Cowell led the Rainbow Warriors with 15 kills on a .481 attack percentage. All-American outside attacker Stijn van Tilburg and All-American opposite Rado Parapunov each contributed 11 kills against the Flyers.

van Tilburg and Parapunov also accounted for five of the team’s 10 aces.

Despite the loss, All-American outside attacker Ryan Coenen finished with a match-high 18 kills and led the Flyers with nine digs. Lewis All-American middle attacker Tyler Mitchem added 12 kills on a .526 attack percentage.

With this victory, Hawai’i advances to the NCAA Tournament finals for the first time since 2002 — when it won a national title that was later vacated.

Hawai’i secured the victory in the fourth game following a 10-3 run midway through the game to jump out to a 19-9 lead. Cowell and Parapunov combined for nine kills and one attack error in the final game.

Lewis rallied from a three-point deficit in the third game to tie the score at 21-21 with an ace from Mitchem.

The Flyers fought off a match-point to forced an overtime. Lewis ended the third game overcoming six match-points opportunities before winning the 14-point overtime session on a Perinar kill and then a block from Mitchem and Perinar.

With the second game tied 15-15, James Anastassiades came off the bench and delivered an ace to give the Rainbow Warriors the lead. That ace started a 8-1 run for the Rainbow Warriors that featured multiple blocks in part because setter Joe Worsley’s serving that forced Lewis out of system.

Hawai’i opened the match on a 7-1 run and led by as many as 10 points in the first-game victory. In addition, the Rainbow Warriors held the Flyers to a negative attack percentage for a majority of the opening game.

Lewis was attempting to reach the NCAA Tournament finals for the third time in its program history.

The MIVA champions reached the semifinals following a four-game victory against USC in the NCAA Tournament opening round on Tuesday.

Hawai’i will play in the finals on Saturday the winner of the semifinal match between the host school Long Beach State and the MPSF champions Pepperdine.