Hawai’i men’s volleyball bounced back with a loud 4-set win over CSUN for the first Big West win of the season & first victory after Spyros Chakas’ injury. | Photo Credit: Ku’ulei Agbayani, HSRN

Hawai’i gets back on track with win over CSUN in Big West home opener

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED MAR 22, 2024

HONOLULU – Back in the win column. 

The 2nd-ranked Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors (18-3, 1-2 Big West) bounced back from last weekend’s tough trip to Long Beach with a four-set victory over 18th-ranked CSUN (9-11, 0-3 Big West) 25-15, 19-25, 27-25, 25-17 – picking up the team’s first win in Big West play this season. 

“We’re still just kind of a work in progress,” Hawai’i head coach Charlie Wade surmised after the match. “We can play really, really good and then [the question]’s just are we going to be able to sustain it. Nice to see us bounce back and play pretty steady in the 3rd and 4th sets against a team that was playing with some confidence.” 

Hawai’i looked to quickly make a statement after falling just short in a five-setter last time out, scoring the match’s first four points and eight of the first 10 to force a CSUN timeout early on. The stop in the action did not slow the ‘Bows, as Guilherme Voss grabbed his third kill of the night and met the Matadors at the net to send the first set to a media timeout with UH leading, 15-6. 

Hawai’i’s domination continued as the laser-focused Rainbow Warriors held a comfortable lead through the rest of the opening frame, cruising to a 25-15 win for a 1-0 set lead. 

The second frame started a bit more contested than the opener as CSUN took their first lead of the night, 5-4, before Chaz Galloway smashed a kill from the left side to tie things back at five each. The Matadors continued to charge, taking a three-point advantage, 9-6, thanks to a service error from Galloway and the efforts of Donovan Constable as both a passer and attacker. 

CSUN continued to groove, leading by four after an unsuccessful Hawai’i challenge attempt and rolling into the second frame’s media timeout leading the ‘Bows, 15-10. Though the ‘Bows fought to bring themselves within three a few times down the stretch run of the set, CSUN would not relinquish grip of the lead on the way to tying the match at a set win for each side. 

“I think the first two sets are a bit of a microcosm of where we’re at,” Wade reflected of his team’s early performance. “We can be really impressive, really productive, really efficient like in that 1st set and then the 2nd set, not so much. Credit to Northridge, they played well.” 

The night’s 3rd set mirrored that of the one prior to begin as the teams traded points to a 5-all tie before Hawai’i took a two-point advantage. The ‘Bows took a 10-7 lead after back-to-back errors from CSUN, forcing a Matadors’ timeout to give the visitors a chance to refocus amongst the loud crowd inside SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center. 

The two teams traded points to the media timeout as Tread Rosenthal caught the Matadors by surprise with an attack on the second hit for Hawai’i, keeping the ‘Bows up three, 15-12. Following the stoppage, CSUN found another gear to knot the score at 17-all after an ace from Griffin Walters. 

Walters continued his strong night in the Stan with his 10th kill of the match giving a 22-21 lead to CSUN and forcing Charlie Wade to call for timeout to settle his team. The break in action worked to Hawai’i’s favor as UH scored three of the next four points to go back in front and position themselves for set point. 

After a few tries, Louis Sakanoko ended the frame and gave Hawai’i the two set to one lead with a rocket service ace on UH’s third set point try for an overtime win, 27-25. In all, 11 service errors in the 3rd set alone for CSUN doomed the visitors. 

The teams matched points to a 3-3 tie to start the 4th set before a successful challenge for Wade sparked a run for the Rainbow Warriors, padded by back-to-back blocks from Guilherme Voss, to go up by four. The advantage grew to six by the time the media timeout of the 4th set hit and up to double-digits following a Chaz Galloway-Kurt Nusterer combined block at the net to give Hawai’i a 21-11 lead.  

After Sakanoko racked up his 10th kill of the night to put the Rainbow Warriors on the cusp of victory, CSUN staved off the match ending for five more rallies before Voss finished the evening with his 10th kill for a 25-17 final win in the 4th frame, delivering the ‘Bows to their first victory in the post-Chakas injury world. 

Kyle Hobus led CSUN with a match-high 21 kills on 43 swings, adding five digs and an ace across four sets of action. Griffin Walters added 11 kills of his own to go with three service aces and a handful of digs in the loss for the Matadors. 

Alaka’i Todd led Hawai’i with 13 kills, his fifth consecutive match with double-digit putdowns and his 13th of the season overall. The senior was one of three ‘Bows to finish in double figures in kills as Sakanoko and Voss joined the outside hitter with 10 each.  

Voss was especially nasty at the net, tallying seven blocks to help stymie CSUN’s comeback tries. Sakanoko, the French freshman, continued to show off his tantalizing talent while displaying some of his youthful learning curve as he also finished with double-digit errors adding across attacks, serves and receptions but also was third amongst ‘Bows with seven digs with a team-best three aces. 

“You see some spectacular and some kind of cringey [play],” Wade said of the flying Frenchman. “That’s just where he’s at, you know? He’s a young player that is supremely talented and we’re seeing him get better day-by-day. You watch him, he really is – you see him not only do the really impressive, explosive things athletically that he can do but you’re seeing him modularly where he can recognize situations and gear down a little bit, whether it’s attacking or serving, and have it be effective.” 

The victory is the ninth consecutive for Hawai’i over CSUN, last falling to the Matadors back in March of 2018 on the mainland. The two teams will match up again Saturday evening for the second of the two-match series as the ‘Bows look to even their conference record and the Matadors continue searching for their first conference win of the year. 

The first serve for Saturday is scheduled for 7 p.m. inside the Stan Sheriff Center.