Hawai’i picked to win 2023 Big West title in preseason poll

Photo by Virginia Pham

There’s no drop in preseason expectations for the two-time defending NCAA champions.

Hawai’i finished atop the Big West Preseason Coaches Poll that was released Wednesday during the conference’s men’s volleyball preview show on ESPN+.

The Rainbow Warriors ended the 2022 regular season in second place in Big West, but in the postseason the team beat the No. 1 seed Long Beach State in both the Big West Tournament finals and then in the NCAA Tournament finals. Among the Hawai’i starters returning includes All-American setter Jakob Thelle who was a finalist for the Lloy Ball Award and National Server of the Year in 2022.

UC Irvine was the only other school besides Hawai’i to receive a first-place vote.


The Anteaters garnered one first-place vote and finished the preseason poll in third place with 17 points. Long Beach State ended in second place with 19 points – six points fewer than Hawai’i.

A Big West team has won the NCAA championship every season since the conference started sponsoring men’s volleyball in 2018. Long Beach State won back-to-back titles in 2018 and 2019, and Hawai’i repeated as champions following the NCAA Tournament’s one-year hiatus in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Hawai’i is attempting to become the first program to win three consecutive NCAA titles since UCLA in the 1990s.

The Big West season will begin in February and will conclude with the six-team conference tournament April 20-22 at UC Irvine. The winner of the Big West Tournament will receive an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.

2023 Big West Preseason Coaches Poll

1. Hawai’i – 25 (5) points
2. Long Beach State – 19 points
3. UC Irvine – 17 (1) points
4. UC Santa Barbara – 13 points
5. CSUN – 10 points
6. UC San Diego – 6 points

2023 Big West Preseason Coaches Team

Setter: Jakob Thelle, Hawai’i
Opposite: Dimitrios Mouchlias, Hawai’i
Outside attacker: Spyros Chakas, Hawai’i
Outside attacker: Hilir Henno, UC Irvine
Outside attacker: Francesco Sani, UC Irvine
Outside attacker: Ryan Wilcox, UC Santa Barbara
Libero: Mason Briggs, Long Beach State