Hawaii beats UC Irvine in Big West final, will go for NCAA 3-peat

IRVINE, Calif. >> The defending two-time national champion from Hawaii secured the opportunity to make it three in a row with a four-set victory over UC Irvine in the championship game of the Volleyball Championship- Big West men’s ball today at the Bren Events Center.

UH against Dimitrios Mouchlias led the Rainbow Warriors (28-2) with 17 kills, and his match point serve set up the kill of Chaz Galloway in a net game to close the 25- 18, 21-25, 25-13, Victory 25-22 in front of a raucous crowd of 4,064 in the 5,000-seat arena.

UH won its second straight Big West Tournament title and the program’s third in the event’s five-year history.

Galloway finished with 13 kills in a .417 performance and center tackle Cole Hogland went 7-for-7 offensively and participated in eight of UH’s 17 blocks on the season.

UH setter Jakob Thelle was named tournament MVP after leading an offense that hit .330. The senior finished with 47 assists, two kills and five block assists, and the Warriors earned the Big West’s automatic bid for the Collegiate Men’s Volleyball National Championship in Fairfax, Va.

>> PHOTOS: Hawaii vs. UC Irvine

UC Irvine (18-11) is hoping to receive one of two spots in the seven-team pool. The draw will be revealed Sunday at 7 a.m. on the tournament selection show on NCAA.com. Long Beach State is also hoping for a spot offshore.

Hilir Henno led UC Irvine with 17 kills and against Francesco Sani he finished with 13 kills against 11 errors and the Anteaters hit .160 as a team.

Henno, the NCAA leader with 86 aces, forced a tight pass on his first delivery and then landed the game’s first ace in midfield to give the UCI a 6-3 lead. Mouchlias answered for UH two runs later and the Warriors took an 11-10 lead on back-to-back aces from Chakas.

UH service specialist Keoni Thiim also delivered back-to-back aces in a five-point tour of service that highlighted a 14-3 UH run and the Warriors led 22-13 when Mouchlias sidelined his fourth kill of the set. Three UCI blocks fueled a 5-1 run late in the set, but Voss and Chakas teamed up on UH’s first block of the night to end the set.

UH led 12-10 in the second set when Sani tapped in for her sixth kill of the game, delivered a serve leading to a UH error, then fired an ace to push the Anteaters ahead. A Thelle and Voss block on Sani tied the set at 19-19, but two successful UCI challenges were part of a 6-1 UCI run to end the set. Cole Gillis, who missed the first two games of the tournament, served an ace on the run and Connor Campbell’s solo block tied the game.

After dropping a set for the first time in 11 road appearances this season, the Warriors responded with an 8-0 run to open the third set. With Thelle on the service line, Chakas teamed up with Voss on a block and completed two extended rallies by the Warriors ground defense. The Warriors remained in control and closed the set with a 5-1 run that included an ace from Galloway, 11th block from UH and the first kill from Thelle. Kana’i Akana forced an overpass and Chakas’ kill gave UH the set and the game lead.

The Warriors and Anteaters traded points early in the fourth set and UH took a 15-12 lead when Hogland combined with Galloway on a block and had his sixth kill in as many attempts. Sani tied the set at 21-21 with an ace, and after the teams traded aces, Mouchlias scored to put UH ahead. He then offered a dive search, leading to a Galloway kill to give UH a set point and the duo combined to put away the match point.

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