Hawaii men's volleyball team is on its way to NCAA tournament with some unfinished business in mind

Jason Kaneshiro, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser
·3 min read

May 2—Next stop, Columbus.

After falling one win short of a national title in 2019 and being denied an opportunity to get back to the NCAA tournament last year, a season-ending trip to Ohio beckoned the Hawaii men's volleyball team throughout the spring.

Limited to a schedule of Big West opponents, the Rainbow Warriors spent most of the season at No. 1 in the country and swept through the regular season at 15-0. A loss in the conference tournament didn't hurt their standing on the national stage and the Warriors depart tonight for their third NCAA tournament appearance in five years.

The Warriors got in one more practice on campus on Saturday—the final session in Gym I for five Warriors finishing out their college careers this week—before packing up for the journey to the Midwest.

"They've spent lots of hours there over the last five or six years and just wanted to make sure they left the building after giving effort that's suited to the people that have spent so much time working hard in that gym, " UH coach Charlie Wade said of a senior class that helped continue the program's ascent since arriving in Manoa.

While the practice offered a moment for reflection, the Warriors spent the week focused on the task ahead after coming up short in the Big West tournament with a semifinal loss to UC San Diego on April 23 in their final home match of the season.

"Earlier in the week you could tell everybody was pretty hungry to get back after it, " Wade said.

After they arrive in Columbus on Monday afternoon, the Warriors will have two days to acclimate and make final preparations for their semifinal match on Thursday at the Covelli Center.

The seven-team NCAA tournament begins Monday with a play-in match between Penn State and Belmont Abbey. The winner advances to face Lewis on Tuesday, with No. 2 seed BYU awaiting in Thursday's semifinals.

As the top seed, Hawaii also has a bye into the semifinals and will face the winner of Tuesday's match between Big West tournament champion UC Santa Barbara and MPSF runner-up Pepperdine at 11 a.m. on Thursday.

The NCAA men's volleyball season will end with the championship match at 2 p.m. Saturday.

"The seeding thing is not really relevant at this point, " Wade said. "It's like stats—they don't mean too much here at the end. Every team you play is good and you're going to have to play your best to advance."

Hawaii also entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed in 2019. That tournament ended with a loss to host Long Beach State in four sets in the national championship match. The Warriors were 15-1 and No. 2 in the AVCA coaches poll when the 2020 season was canceled amid the spread of COVID-19.

After an offseason of uncertainty, the Warriors will board tonight's flight grateful for the opportunities ahead.

"Talking to the other coaches, everybody is appreciative of getting to this point, " Wade said. "And for our guys that made the decision to come back, we're appreciative to the people in the community that helped make it happen and certainly everybody in and around the athletic department that got us through this safely. We're appreciative of a lot of people who did a lot to get us to this point."