Island Time! Hawai’i out-serves BYU to win NCAA championship

Photo by Vinnie Lopes

The Rainbow Warriors didn’t waste much time in a national championship match-up that was two years in the making.

Hawai’i had 10 aces and a .381 attack percentage as it swept BYU 25-21, 25-19, 25-16 in the NCAA Tournament finals on Saturday in Columbus, Ohio.

Both Hawai’i and BYU entered the finals as the only two teams to hold the No. 1 national ranking during the last two years. In addition, the teams were prevented from playing for the 2020 national title because the coronavirus pandemic canceled the season.

The 10 aces, eight more than BYU, set a NCAA Tournament finals record during the 25-point rally scoring era. Setter Jakob Thelle led all players with four aces, while opposite Rado Parapunov and outside attacker Colton Cowell each added three aces.

Thelle also guided the offense to hit above its nation-best season average of .359. Five starters finished with more than five kills and three of those players had one or zero attack errors.

Parapunov had a match-high 13 kills on a .357 attack percentage en route to being named the NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player.

Middle attacker Patrick Gasman added seven kills while hitting .545, and Cowell also had seven kills. Outside attacker Chaz Galloway and middle attacker Guilherme Voss each had six kills and did not commit an error.


Parapunov and libero Gage Worsley led the Rainbow Warriors defensively with seven blocks.

BYU, which entered the match second in the nation hitting .349, was held to a .262 attack percentage.

Opposite Gabi Garcia Fernandez in the loss had a team-high 12 kills and was the only Cougar to have double-digit kills. Outside attackers Davide Gardini and Zach Eschenberg both had seven kills and hit less than .200.

The Cougars were held to a match-low .207 attack percentage in the final game.

Hawai’i in that third game jumped out to a 4-1 lead capped off with a ace from Cowell. In addition, Hawai’i closed out its championship on a 5-1 run that featured a two kills from Parapunov and an ace from Thelle.

Thelle delivered an ace and was at the service line for a 6-0 run midway through the second game to give the Rainbow Warriors an eight-point lead. BYU narrowed it to a five-point lead before a kill from Galloway and then three consecutive aces from Parapunov gave Hawai’i a 23-14 lead.

Cowell closed out the game with his sixth kill of the match up to that point as the Rainbow Warriors to a two-game lead.

BYU opened the match with back-to-back blocks but Hawai’i responded scoring four of the next five points to take the lead.

The Cougars continued to trail for the most of the first game until an ace Jonathan-Teilon Tufga tied the game at 17-17.

Fernandez serving two plays later gave the Cougars the lead after forcing the Rainbow Warriors out of system. Hawai’i responded, though, going on a 7-2 run that included Spyros Chakas serving for four of the points and two kills from Voss.

Despite being out-hit .400 to .227 in the opening game, BYU out-blocked Hawai’i 5.5 to 1.5

The Cougars following the first game had two blocks in the final three games.

This is the first national championship for the Rainbow Warriors in their program history. Hawai’i won the 2002 NCAA title but later had to vacate the championship because of NCAA violations.

BYU has now lost its last four times in the NCAA Tournament finals since winning the national championship in 2004. It is now the first program to have lost its last four finals appearances since USC in the 1980s.

NCAA All-Tournament Team

Setter: Casey McGarry, UC Santa Barbara
Setter: Wil Stanley, BYU
Setter: Jakob Thelle, Hawai’i
Opposite: Gabi Garcia Fernandez, BYU
Opposite: Rado Parapunov, Hawai’i (Most Outstanding Player)
Middle attacker: Patrick Gasman, Hawai’i
Middle attacker: Tyler Mitchem, Lewis