The University of Hawai’i men’s volleyball team kept its bid for a first Mountain Pacific Sports Federation title alive with a straight-set semifinal win over BYU, Thursday at the Walter Pyramid. Set scores were 25-22, 25-23, 25-22.
The Rainbow Warriors (26-4) avenged two earlier losses to the Cougars to advance to their fourth MPSF Tournament title match, and first since 2002. UH will meet either top-seed Long Beach State on Saturday at 4:00 p.m. HST
UH was led by senior outside hitter Kupono Fey, who matched his season-high of 16 kills, hitting .464, along with seven digs and four blocks. The Honolulu native came up big in the final set, tallying three late kills and his lone ace as the Warriors closed out on the match on a 10-4 run.
Opposite Stijn van Tilburg added 12 kills, four digs, and three blocks while middle Hendril Mol (8) and Patrick Gasman (5) combined for 13 kills without an error, hitting .684. Mol led the team with five blocks as the Warriors tallied 7.5 for the match. Setter Jennings Franciskovic dished out 38 assists and served two aces while directing the offense to a .429 mark.
Jake Langlois had a team-high 15 kills for the Cougars (24-4), who had swept the Warriors in two matches in Provo, Utah last month. Ben Patch added 14 kills while Brenden Sander chipped in 11 kills and three aces.
Set 1 featured 17 ties and six lead changes with no team holding a lead larger than one point until the final stretch. With the score tied at 21, the Warriors strung together three straight, which included consecutive Cougar errors. After a BYU point, van Tilburg put away set point giving UH the first set and snapping a six-set losing streak to the Cougars.
Set 2 was similar to the first as the teams battled back and forth for the first half of the frame. The Cougars took an 18-16 lead after a Sander ace but the Warriors responded with a 6-2 run for a 22-20 lead. BYU answered with three straight points but UH matched that run with three of their own to end it, capped by back-to-back blocks by Gasman.
UH took an 11-8 lead in Set 3 with a three-point spurt that included a Fey-Mol double block on Langlois. The Cougars rallied back and took an 18-15 lead with a 6-1 run spurred by three Warrior errors. Back-to-back kills by Fey tied it at 19 and another kill by Fey put UH on top for good. A Franciskovic ace put the Warriors on top by two and Fey’s ace brought the Warriors to match point at 24-21. After a Langlois kill, van Tilburg ended it with his 12th kill.
Saturday’s championship match can be seen online at FloVolleyball.tv and over the radio on ESPN 1420AM with Tiff Wells calling the action.