The University of Hawai’i men’s volleyball team dropped the opener of a pivotal two-match Mountain Pacific Sports Federation series with No. 7 UC Santa Barbara in four sets, Friday, at Rob Gym. Set scores were 25-15, 23-25, 25-18, 25-18.
The Rainbow Warriors (14-10, 9-10 MPSF) saw their four-match win streak come to an end and have now lost five straight to the Gauchos in Santa Barbara dating back to 2010. More importantly, UH is now two matches behind UCSB (16-9, 11-8) and Pepperdine in the MPSF standings for fifth place.
UH struggled from the onset easily dropping the first set before rallying to take Set 2. But the Warriors hit .217 and .100 in the third and fourth sets, respectively, compared to .500 and .385 for the Gauchos. Hawai’i’s outside hitters struggled, combining for 15 of the team’s 24 hitting errors.
Opposite Stijn van Tilburg led the way with 13 kills but only three occurred in the final two sets after UH tied the match with a 25-23 win in Set 2. Kupono Fey added 11 kills but committed eight errors along with eight digs. Middle blocker Nainoa Frank had eight kills, hitting .800 while outside hitter Brett Rosenmeier came off the bench for a struggling Sinisa Zarkovic and tallied seven kills and six digs.
Austin Kingi led three Gauchos in double figure kills with 13, hitting .345. Matt Marsh added 12 kills, two aces and five blocks while Henri Cherri nearly recorded a double-double with 11 kills and nine blocks.
As a team, UCSB hit .361 and tallied 12 team blocks and seven aces. Six of those blocks and three of those aces occurred in the opening set in the Gauchos’ 25-15 victory. UH hit .067 in the frame as Zarkovic and van Tilburg each committed three errors.
UH jumped out to 9-4 lead in Set 2 as van Tilburg got hot with five kills midway through. The Gauchos trimmed the UH lead to one, five times down the stretch before the Warriors closed out the set as van Tilburg’s 10th kill gave them a 25-23 victory.
The Gauchos scored three straight midway through Set 3 – spurred by back-to-back errors by Fey – for a 15-11 lead. That was enough of a cushion as UH would not get closer than three the rest of the way as the Gauchos went on to a 25-18 victory. UCSB hit .500 in the set with only two errors in 24 attempts.
In Set 4, UCSB scored four straight to seize control of a 12-9 lead. But the Warriors answered right back with four straight of their own including an ace by Frank for a 13-12 lead. It was all Santa Barbara from there on as the Gauchos used an 8-1 run, including five straight for a 20-14 lead.
The teams play again on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. PT (4:00 p.m. HT) at Rob Gym.