So much for any rust from Hawai’i following a two-week layoff before its first NCAA Tournament match.
The No. 1 seed Hawai’i had 13.5 blocks as it swept the No. 4 seed UC Santa Barbara 25-21, 25-18, 25-23 in the NCAA Tournament semifinals on Thursday in Columbus, Ohio.
All but one of the Rainbow Warriors starters had multiple blocks and it finished with 9.5 more blocks than their conference rivals.
Patrick Gasman in the victory led all players with six blocks. The All-American and Ryan Millar Award winner as the nation’s top middle attacker also had 10 kills and zero errors on a .625 attack percentage.
Along with Gasman, middle attacker Guilherme Voss and opposite Rado Parapunov each had five blocks.
Both teams entered this semifinal match as two of the top offenses in the nation but hit below their season averages. UC Santa Barbara was limited to a season-low .170 attack percentage, while the Rainbow Warriors hit .263.
Setter Jakob Thelle had 32 assists and guided the Rainbow Warriors to have three players with double-digit kills.
Parapunov finished with a team-high 12 kills, including the match-winning kill. The National Player of the Year also led the Rainbow Warriors with 11 digs.
Outside attacker Colton Cowell contributed 10 kills with four of those kills coming the second game.
All-American opposite Randy DeWeese in the loss had a match-high 13 kills but was the only Gaucho with double-digit kills. In addition, middle attacker Keenan Sanders added eight kills on a .375 attack percentage.
Outside attacker Ryan Wilcox was held to four kills on a negative-.059 attack percentage but led UC Santa Barbara defensively with 13 digs.
Sanders had a block early in the third game to cap off a 4-0 run and give the Gauchos an 8-7 lead. The Rainbow Warriors, though, with the score tied at 12-12 responded with a 5-0 run that featured a kill from Gasman and a Thelle ace.
UC Santa Barbara rallied back from that five-point deficit to cut the lead to 23-22 before Hawai’i was able to win two of the final three points to secure the sweep.
Hawai’i scored the first four points of the second game with Thelle serving and started on a 6-1 run. The Rainbow Warriors led by as many as nine points and held the Gauchos to a negative attack percentage for the majority of the game.
With Hawai’i trailing 10-9 in the opening game, Parapunov had back-to-back kills and then later added a block as part of a 4-1 run to give the Rainbow Warriors a three-point lead. The Gauchos would twice erase three-point deficits in the first game but could never retake the lead.
Gasman led all players in the first game with four blocks, while Thelle had two aces.
The Rainbow Warriors are returning to their second consecutive NCAA Tournament finals. Hawai’i in 2019 made its first NCAA Tournament finals appearance in 17 years and lost to the defending national champions Long Beach State.
Hawai’i in the NCAA Tournament finals on Saturday will play the winner of the other semifinals match on Thursday between Lewis and BYU.
UC Santa Barbara was attempting to return to the NCAA Tournament finals for the first time since 2011. This was the first time the Gauchos lost to a West Coast school in the NCAA Tournament since blowing a two-game lead to USC in the 1988 finals.