Chaz Galloway stares across the court in a match for Hawai’i; the senior led the Rainbow Warriors with 10 kills in a sweep against #20 UC Santa Barbara on March 29, 2024. | Photo Credit: Michael Lasquero, HSRN

Hawai’i slowly finding way again, takes down UCSB in three sets

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED MAR 29, 2024

HONOLULU – Play that sweet, sweep music. 

The 5th-ranked Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors (19-4, 2-3 Big West) took down the 20th-ranked UC Santa Barbara Gauchos (7-15, 0-6 Big West) in straight sets Friday night in front of more than 6,000 people – (25-23, 25-21, 26-24). 

“We’re still a work-in-progress, there’s no doubt. We’re seeing glimpses of it and we are just going to keep grinding,” Hawai’i’s Charlie Wade said following the win.

Earlier in the week, Hawai’i dropped outside of the top 4 in the AVCA rankings poll for the first time since the final poll of the 2018 season following their weekend split with CSUN. After 91 consecutive weeks of men’s volleyball seasons passing with Hawai’i as one of the sport’s top quartet of competitors, Friday marked new waters for many Rainbow Warriors. 

The Gauchos looked to become the next program to snap a long losing streak against the ‘Bows as the teams traded the first 18 points of the night to a 9-9 score before Hawai’i finally was able to gain a multi-point lead with Guilherme Voss steady at the service line, 11-9. The visitors returned fire with three straight points – capped off by an ace from former UH setter Jack Walmer – to slither ahead, 12-11.  

The set returned to original form, trading points into the media timeout as Hawai’i led 15-14 after a triple block from Kurt Nusterer, Tread Rosenthal and Louis Sakanoko. The ‘Bows flew out of the timeout with back-to-back kills from Rosenthal and Alaka’i Todd for a three-point lead, but UCSB’s Geste Bianchi brought the Gauchos back within one with a mini-run of his own. 

Hawai’i came to the doorstep of a set one victory, 24-20, after Todd and Sakanoko pushed home a pair of kills, but the Gauchos made things interesting by staving off the first loss with three points in a row. The Rainbow Warriors escaped the opening set with a win on their fourth set point try as Chaz Galloway smashed his fourth kill of the evening. 

The ‘Bows, looking to build off their opening set win, grabbed the first two points of the 2nd set and continued building to a 7-4 lead with Todd and Nusterer continuing to keep “Mānoa Roofing Company” open on Good Friday, forcing a timeout from UC Santa Barbara.  

The lead grew to four after Rosenthal dunked one down on the second hit and Voss (after a review) won a joust at the net to give Hawai’i the 12-to-8 advantage. The ‘Bows would carry that same four-point margin into the media timeout after Galloway floated his seventh kill of the evening over a Gauchos’ block attempt.

With the help of some Hawai’i miscommunications and more service aces, UCSB tied the 2nd set at 16-16 and forced a timeout from head coach Charlie Wade. The break in the action did wonders for the ‘Bows as UH rattled off four of the next five points to take a 20-17 lead and flip the tide to force a timeout from the visiting Gauchos. 

Hawai’i powered through the final five points it needed, capped by a Nusterer punch, to take a commanding two sets to none lead over the Gauchos taking the frame, 25-21. 

The Rainbow Warriors raced out to a quick three-point lead in the 3rd set with four of the first five points, hoping to send the six thousand screaming fans home pleased and early on a Friday. They continued that dream by maintaining a healthy distance with UCSB before heading into the media timeout with a 15-13 lead. 

The 5th-ranked team in the nation continued to roll, pushing the advantage to five with more steady play after the stoppage, 20-15. The Gauchos used back-to-back aces from Owen Loncar to pull back within two and force a timeout from Hawai’i and rode the wave of momentum to knot things at 24 and send the 3rd set into a very brief pair of overtime points. 

Hawai’i took care of business after a service error from the Gauchos set up match point for the Rainbow Warriors and a Sakanoko second-chance kill finished the night on a high note as UH swept the ‘Chos in straight sets. 

“You know, I thought it was good, not great [tonight],” UH head coach Charlie Wade said postgame, referencing the number of self-inflicted errors the ‘Bows continue to allow. “We make nine errors in the first set – which is under where we had ballooned up to – and then we end up with [33 errors] in three sets so you’re still back to [11 errors averaged per set] and I think we’re better than that.”

UC Santa Barbara standout Geste Bianchi led all participants with a match-high 17 kills on 39 swings for the Gauchos. Ben Coordt and Patrick Kane added seven kills apiece for the visitors as they dropped their 17th consecutive meeting with Hawai’i in men’s volleyball. 

Chaz Galloway recorded his 25th career double-digit kill match, posting 10 kills to lead UH while adding four digs in his second-to-last regular season home appearance. Sakanoko and Voss each chipped in nine kills each and were particularly vicious at the net throughout the night. 

Four different ‘Bows had six or more digs on the night as well as Hawai’i’s hustle defense helped them get back on track after a rather stunning loss to CSUN last Saturday. While it was not a normal Alaka’i Todd game for kills, the 6th-year senior made sure to make his presence felt all night anyway with six kills, seven digs and a block to push UH back on the line of .500 in Big West play.

“[Alaka’i] has, for this team and in this moment in time, evolved into a veteran guy that we need a good performance from every night,” Wade said of his outside hitter’s all-around contributions.

The teams meet again Saturday evening for Hawai’i’s “Senior Night” as the ‘Bows honor six players in the team’s final home match of the regular season. First serve is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. with senior night proceedings following the contest. With a win, Hawai’i would clinch the program’s third straight 20-plus win season and 13th in program history while keeping the Gauchos winless in conference action this season.