LONG BEACH, Calif. – The University of Hawai’i men’s volleyball team’s bid for its first Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament title came to an end after a four-set loss to host and No. 1 Long Beach State Saturday at the Walter Pyramid. Set scores were 17-25, 25-20, 25-13, 25-23.
The Rainbow Warriors (26-5) will now await word whether they will receive one of two at-large bids into the six-team NCAA Tournament. The Beach (27-4) captured their first MPSF Tournament title and earned the league’s automatic berth.
UH was led by senior outside hitter Kupono Fey, who finished with 14 kills and four digs and was named to the all-tournament team. Sophomore oppositeStijn van Tilburg was also named to the all-tourney team and added 12 kills and four digs while freshman middle Patrick Gasman tallied eight kills and three blocks.
LBSU was led by Kyle Ensing’s 15 kills while tournament Most Outstanding Player TJ DeFalco chipped in with 12 kills and nine digs. Setter Josh Tuaniga had three of the team’s five aces and directed the 49ers to a .361 hitting percentage.
Hawai’i, who was also seeking its first MPSF title, hit .184 and had only 4.5 blocks.
UH seized control of the first set with an 8-2 run, including two huge double blocks by Gasman andJennings Franciskovic for a 15-8 lead. Moments later, back-to-back kills by Fey gave UH an 18-12 lead. The lead was 21-14 after an LBSU bad set and the Warriors rolled to the first set win after Bryce Yould’s attempt went wide.
The Beach quickly answered back in Set 2, jumping out to a 7-2 lead. UH rallied to within two at 11-9 before the 49ers went ahead 15-11 at the media timeout. At 19-15, UH middle blocker Hendrik Mol exited the match due to a leg injury and would not return. Three straight UH hitting errors gave the Beach a 23-18 lead and LBSU cruised tied up the match at 1-1 with the 25-20 victory.
Freshman outside hitter Rado Parapunov started Set 3 in place of a struggling van Tilburg and the Warriors fell behind 5-0 early. The Beach pushed their lead to 12-4 after scoring five unanswered which included three UH hitting errors. LBSU blew it wide out, making it 19-7 with another five-point spurt en route to a 25-13 win and 2-1 lead in the match.
The teams battled back and forth in Set 4. UH took a 15-13 lead at the media timeout. With the score tied at 20, van Tilburg’s serve was questionably called long, which should have given the Warriors the lead. That coupled with Tuaniga’s ace gave the Beach a 22-20 lead and the teams traded points the rest of the way. Andrew Whitt’s kill ended it.
The NCAA Selection Show is scheduled for 7:00 a.m. HT on NCAA.com. The four teams have already earned berths by virtue of winning their conference tournaments – Barton (Conference Carolinas), Ohio State (MIVA), Penn State (EIVA), and LBSU (MPSF).