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NCAA men: Hawai’i tops UCLA; Penn St., LBSU, UCI, Pepperdine, BYU win

A day after Hawaii’s position at the pinnacle of NCAA Division I-II men’s indoor volleyball might have appeared to slip, the two-time defending national champion and No. 1-ranked Rainbow Warriors said, “Not so fast.”

Hawaii (17-1) roared from behind in the fourth set, held off two set points that would have sent the match to a fifth and defeated No. 2 UCLA (19-2) 29-27, 21-25, 25-22, 28-28 on Saturday night in Honolulu to climax a chaotic 27th OUTRIGGER Invitational.

The coaches on the voting panel of the AVCA poll will have a myriad of conflicting data to sort out: UCLA beat No. 3 Penn State in five, Penn State topped Hawaii in four and Hawaii defeated UCLA in four over an intense three days of OUTRIGGER action on Oahu.

In locales less exotic than Honolulu, men’s volleyball highlights on Saturday saw Long Beach State and UC Irvine record Big West victories, Pepperdine top USC again in the MPSF, another “W” for BYU over Ohio State, a stifling defensive performance by Charleston and the nation’s top hitter in kills average pad his stats with 49 over seven sets in a doubleheader.

As 10,300 fans packed SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center, homestanding Hawaii of the Big West bounced back after having its 25-match winning streak snapped on Friday. Up two sets to one, the Rainbow Warriors trailed 13-9, 15-11 and 22-20 in the fourth against the MPSF’s UCLA, but were able to pull even at 23. The Bruins served for the set at 24-23 and 25-24 but were denied by Spyros Chakas’ kill and a serving error by freshman Zach Rama.

At 26-all, Hawaii picked up a point on Ethan Champlin’s attack error and then sent the big crowd home happy when returning first-team All-American Champlin was rejected by Jakob Thelle and Kurt Nusterer.

Dimitrios Mouchlias did the heavy lifting on offense for Hawaii with 22 kills on 41 swings, getting 44.8% of his team’s winners. Chakas contributed nine kills, two aces and five block assists. The Bows played much cleaner than the Bruins, who made 24 attack errors and gave away 25 points from the serving line. Ido David led UCLA with 21 kills and returning first-team All-American middle Merrick McHenry had 11 kills on .647 hitting and three blocks, two solo.

After its upset of Hawaii, third-ranked Penn State (17-2) of the EIVA consolidated its gains with a taking-care-of-business thumping of the MIVA’s Purdue Fort Wayne (12-8) on the final day of the OUTRIGGER’s round-robin. The Nittany Lions smothered the Mastodons, who had 18 attack errors against 18 kills, in a 25-15, 25-11, 25-16 obliteration. Penn State hit .507 and cracked six aces. Cole Bogner dished 36 assists, Cal Fisher (15 kills on 25 swings with no errors, three aces, three block assists) had another productive match, and Michael Valenzi chipped in 10 kills on .500 hitting and two aces.

In the Big West, No. 4 Long Beach State (11-2, 2-0) needed five sets to put away USCB (4-11, 1-2) 21-25, 25-18, 25-20, 22-25, 15-11 at the Pyramid and tally a sweep of their home-and-home weekend series. Two of the Beach’s final three points in the fifth set came on service errors by Jack Walmer and Ryan Wilcox. The visitors from Santa Barbara had 28 miscues from the serving line to the Beach’s 12. The winners got solid production from Sotiris Siapanis (17 kills, two aces, nine digs) and Spencer Olivier (16 kills on .417 hitting). Owen Brigg (25 kills, 10 digs) and Wilcox (20 kills, 17 digs) led the Gauchos.

It was second verse, same as the first for No. 6 UC Irvine (12-6, 2-0) in its weekend Big West series with UC San Diego (6-12, 0-4). The Anteaters posted another sweep (25-16, 25-17, 25-14), winning more convincingly on the road than they did on Friday at home. Irvine cracked .542 as a team while pounding eight aces. Francesco Sani logged 11 kills and two aces; Hilir Henno had 10 kills and three service winners.

No. 7 Pepperdine (12-8, 4-2) picked up its second MPSF victory over No. 10 USC (8-9, 1-5) in three days, this time tripping the Trojans at their Galen Center 27-25, 17-25, 25-27, 25-20. The teams were nearly dead even on the stat sheet overall, but the visiting Waves gained traction late in the fourth set by scoring five of six points to build a 23-18 advantage and sided out from there. The last of Jaylen Jasper’s 15 kills punctuated the victory. The Trojans got 18 kills from Simon Gallas and 17 from Dillon Klein.

BYU’s Trent Moser hits over Ohio State’s Jack O’Riordan/BYU photo

A crowd of 5,071 at Smith Fieldhouse in Provo, Utah, saw No. 8 BYU (12-6) of the MPSF defeat No. 15 Ohio State (11-8) in five see-saw sets 25-23, 25-15, 14-25, 23-25, 15-7. The Cougars hit .556 and sided out at 100% in the deciding race to 15. Luke Benson rang up 18 kills and five block assists and Miks Ramanis had 16 kills for BYU, which won both matches in the weekend series against the visitors from the MIVA. Jacob Pasteur led Ohio State with 14 kills, two aces, two block assists and nine digs.

No. 14 Charleston (17-1) of the EIVA had a far easier time against Mount Olive (5-12) in the second match of their weekend series than the first. After sweating out a five-setter on Friday, the Golden Eagles’ defense stifled the visitors from Conference Carolinas in a 25-16, 25-18, 25-19 romp. Charleston dug 44 balls and held the Trojans to .075 hitting. Senior opposite Garrett Schnitker continued to demonstrate his versatility with 14 kills, .440 hitting, two aces and nine digs.

Princeton (8-8, 3-2) required a reverse sweep to pull off a 14-25, 22-25, 25-20, 25-16, 15-11 EIVA road victory against NJIT (6-10, 1-3). The match went out with a whimper rather than a roar as the last four points of the deciding set were scored on service errors. The teams combined for 51 miscues from the service line, 27 by the victors. Princeton’s Nyherowo Omene slashed 16 kills/.591/two aces/three block assists. Andrew Fedmasu was effective for the Highlanders with 11 kills on .533 hitting with two aces.

The EIVA’s George Mason (7-9) dropped the first set and was pushed to overtime in the fourth against independent Limestone (8-8) before winning 23-25, 25-18, 25-21, 28-26. The host Patriots trailed 25-24 in Set 4, but rallied behind Liam French’s three kills and finished the deal on a block by Chey Cooper and Eamonn Testerman. French ripped 21 kills, and Cooper had 17, hit .458 and made nine digs. Albert Warzocha (18 kills, .485 percentage, four aces) was a one-man gang in defeat for the Saints.

A .714 hitting percentage with 16 kills and four aces by 6-5 senior A.J. Lewis popped off of the stat sheet in a 25-15, 26-24, 25-19 victory by Lindenwood (8-7) over Maryville (9-13). The second-place team in the MIVA standings feasted against the visiting independent, hitting a robust .407 and ripping eight aces.

Benedict (6-4, 3-2) topped host Kentucky State (2-22, 1-5) twice in SIAC matches. Sophomore sensation Ras Jesse Delancey, the national leader in kills per set, cranked 33 of Benedict’s 47 kills in the four-set (25-22, 25-8, 26-28, 25-20) opener. Delancey recorded 16 of the Tigers’ 37 in their lopsided second-match sweep (25-12, 25-16, 25-18). Struggling Kentucky State had more attacking errors (47) than kills (45) during the doubleheader.

In other matches, independent Tusculum (6-13) squeaked by Conference Carolinas visitor Emmanuel (6-12) in five (15-12 in the fifth) behind 20 kills each from Deklan Wingo and Colby Landry. Jayden Young ripped 22 kills for the losing Lions. Jacob Malek’s 13 kills helped the NEC’s D’Youville (6-8) win in three over host independent American International (2-14) to take both matches of the back-to-back weekend series. Belmont Abbey (7-11) of Conference Carolinas swept host Fort Valley State (4-12) of the SICA as Matthew Staskunas posted 17 kills on 26 errorless swings.

COMING UP: There are no matches n Sunday and the only one Monday has NAIA member Reinhardt at North Greenville of Conference Carolinas.

UH’s Dimitrios Mouchlias hits against UCLA/Hawai’i photo