Four Hawai’i seniors utilize extra year of eligibility, returning for 2021 season

Photo by Fabiana Huffaker

Hawai’i received the news it had hoped for as it prepares to make a championship run in 2021.

The team that was ranked No. 1 for the majority of the 2020 season announced Thursday that four seniors, including three All-American starters, will return next season.

Outside attacker James Anastassiades, All-American outside attacker Colton Cowell, All-American Patrick Gasman and All-American opposite Rado Parapunov all opted to use their extra year of eligibility and return to the Rainbow Warriors. The NCAA granted an additional year to athletes of spring sports, like men’s volleyball, after their seasons were canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“These guys have gotten all kinds of awards and recognition and really are great representatives of not only our program but the university and our state,” coach Charlie Wade said in a video message that was posted on the team’s Twitter account. “Having an opportunity to be around them for another year is really gratifying for me. I’m excited about the leadership and maturity that they bring into our practice gym, helping our young players evolve, and they are pretty good volleyball players, you know. They are going to help us win a lot of games and continue to be in a conversation for a national championship.”

The Rainbow Warriors reached the 2019 NCAA Tournament finals and opened the 2020 season ranked No. 1 in both the national coaches poll and nation media poll. Hawai’i opened the season on a 14-match winning streak with its one loss coming in a two-match series split against No. 2/1 BYU days before the season was canceled.

Parapunov, the 2020 Big West Player of the Year and a finalist for the Bryan Ivie Award, was second in the nation with a career-best 4.47 kills per game average and among the national leaders hitting .377. Among the top performances from Parapunov featured season-high 30 kills on a .440 attack percentage as No. 1/2 Hawai’i rallied from a two-game deficit to beat BYU in five games in both teams’ season finale.

Cowell, a finalist for the Karch Kiraly Award, finished among the national leaders with both a 3.77 kills per game average and a .362 attack percentage. Among his top performances included 11 kills and zero errors on a .611 attack percentage along with a season-high three aces in a road sweep against Stanford.

Gasman, a finalist for the Ryan Millar Award, was seventh in the nation with a 1.20 blocks per game average and had at least five blocks in five matches. He also had a career-high 18 aces and was among the nation’s top 15 with a .383 attack percentage, including a season-high nine kills while hitting .800 in a sweep against Grand Canyon.

Anastassiades primarily came off the bench as a serving specialist and appeared in all 16 matches during the 2020 season. The outside attacker finished with 11 aces and had at least one ace in nine matches.

Anastassiades also said in the team’s video message on Twitter that he may opt to return as a team manager instead of a player while pursuing his master’s degree in 2021.