UCLA Denies ‘Bows Attempt at Three-Peat, Win Program’s 20th NCAA Men’s Volleyball Title 

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED MAY 7, 2023

FAIRFAX, Va. — A magical season for the Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors men’s volleyball team came to a close Saturday afternoon, falling in four sets to the UCLA Bruins in the 2023 NCAA men’s volleyball national title match.

The ‘Bows dropped the first set, 28-26, in what was the third total overtime set in two meetings between the two squads this season. The first two came back on March 11 during the OUTRIGGER Volleyball Invitational in Honolulu, when the Rainbow Warriors dispatched the Bruins in four sets.

The second set of the night was trending towards UCLA taking a commanding two sets to none lead over Hawai’i, as the ‘Bows fell behind 19-13 before Jakob Thelle recorded his record-breaking 122nd service ace during a 4-0 run at the service line to cut back into the Bruins’ lead.

Thelle’s run coupled with a monster Cole Hogland effort at the net helped the ‘Bows come roaring all the way back in the set, but UCLA would not relinquish the set without a fight. Many long back-and-forth rallies later, Hawai’i took set two, 33-31, to knot the championship match at one set apiece.

Hawai’i opened the third set well, holding a lead at brief moments before UCLA stopped trading points and went on a run of their own to reach 20 points first and hold a commanding five-point lead over the ‘Bows. 

The Rainbow Warriors would cut the deficit to two points late, but the Bruins closed the set before allowing another Hawai’i comeback to give UCLA the set advantage, 2-1.

The Bruins held an early lead in set four and continued to build on it before Hawai’i began to chip away at the deficit once again. After getting it to 15-13, the ‘Bows seemed to falter once again which in turn allowed UCLA to go on a 4-1 scoring run.

The ‘Bows would fight hard until the end, but eventually the tournament’s top seed proved to be too much for Hawai’i as the defending back-to-back national champions fell to UCLA in the fourth and final set, 25-21. 

The title match win ends the drought for UCLA, who had been trying to win their 20th national title in program history since 2006 and had been previously denied in 2018 in the championship match.

The loss was just the third of the season for the ‘Bows, who set a new program record with 29 wins in a single season. Hawai’i is the first program to appear in four consecutive MVB title matches since UCLA appeared in six straight from 1993 to 1998. 

The program says goodbye to six players who have long put their heart and soul into playing volleyball for the Rainbow Warriors and the fans of the team. Jakob Thelle, Dimitrios Mouchlias, Cole Hogland, Filip Humler, Kana’i Akana and Devon Johnson completed their Hawai’i men’s volleyball careers as key members of the program with the best winning percentage in the country since 2015 and at least one national championship to each of their names. 

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