Hawai’i water polo dominant in Senior Night win, completes perfect Big West regular season

Hawai’i water polo dominant in Senior Night win, completes perfect Big West regular season

(From left to right) Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine water polo seniors Alba Bonamusa Boix, Lot Stertefeld, Emma Gurasich and Lucia Gomez de la Puente pose for a picture after UH’s 12-3 Senior Night victory over #16 UCSB. | Photo Credit: Michael Lasquero, HSRN

Hawai’i dominant in Senior Night win, completes perfect Big West regular season

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED APRIL 13, 2024

HONOLULU – Mo Goalz. 

The 2nd-ranked Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine water polo team capped off an immaculate run through the Big West conference schedule Saturday night, boat-racing 16th-ranked UC Santa Barbara (14-13, 1-5 Big West) on Senior Night with a 12-3 victory to send off four seniors and veteran head coach Maureen Cole with a dominant victory in their final appearance in the Duke Kahanamoku Aquatics Complex. 

Hawai’i recognized senior goalkeeper Emma Gurasich, attacker Alba Bonamusa Boix, utility Lot Stertefeld and attacker Lucia Gomez de la Puente after the match while honoring Cole in her final home match after 13 seasons as the head coach of the Rainbow Wahine water polo program. In all, Cole has been with the Hawai’i program for 18 seasons and picked up her 50th win in Big West competition on Saturday. 

A Senior Night full of smiles got started quickly as UH senior utility Lot Stertefeld helped the Rainbow Wahine (19-3, 7-0 Big West) on the board first with a goal just 39 seconds into the contest with a power play giving Hawai’i an advantage.  

UH junior center Bia Mantellato Dias put away her team-leading 56th goal with 3:54 left in the opening quarter to push Hawai’i’s lead to two midway through the first frame. The lead grew to a few as sophomore attacker Roni Perlman snuck in a quick score with seven seconds left in the first frame to give the Rainbow Wahine a 3-0 advantage after one quarter. 

After winning the opening sprint in the 2nd quarter, Hawai’i extended the lead with two more goals in three minutes as Agatha Weston and Morgan Rios got in on the fun for the Rainbow Wahine. Consistent pressure and mounting momentum for Hawai’i forced the hand of UC Santa Barbara as the Gauchos called for timeout with 4:09 remaining in the 1st half.  

The stoppage did not slow Hawai’i as Perlman deposited her second goal of the night 26 seconds after the UCSB timeout to make it 6-0 in favor of the ‘Bows. Hawai’i senior attacker Alba Bonamusa Boix became the second of the seniors to put away a goal at the 3:05 mark of the 2nd quarter to extend the UH lead to seven.  Two minutes later, fellow senior attacker Lucia Gomez de la Puente completed the trio of UH seniors that would score on the night with a goal to push it to 8-0. 

Hawai’i freshman Esmee Roijen made it 9-0 with a goal with 21 seconds left in the half, but UC Santa Barbara’s Leigh Lyter snuck a goal through with two seconds remaining to break the scoring drought and send the Gauchos into the break trailing, 9-1. 

The fourth senior, goalkeeper Emma Gurasich, began the 2nd half in the net for Hawai’i as all four players that would be honored recorded statistics in the box sheet. While Gurasich recorded a pair of saves, Dias added her 57th goal of the year and second of the night at the 4:53 mark of the 3rd quarter to make it 10-1 in UH’s favor. 

Hawai’i junior attacker Bernadette Doyle made it a 10-goal lead for the ‘Bows with her first goal of the night coming at the 3:57 mark of the 4th quarter. UCSB responded with a pair of goals within 70 seconds of each other, but UH freshman attacker Allegra Childs’ goal with 2:07 left to play sent the good vibes into the end of the night as Hawai’i cruised to a 12-3 victory. 

Gurasich and UH starting keeper Daisy Logtens combined for 10 saves as the senior Gurasich allowed a pair of goals in her 16 minutes of action. Freshman keeper Daisy Logtens allowed one score just before exiting as the Hawai’i defense flexed all evening. 

The Rainbow Wahine scored on nearly half of their shot attempts, taking 28 shots to score 12 goals on the night while the defense tied a season-low in goals allowed with just three UCSB scores coming from 22 shots. 

Hawai’i won three of the night’s four sprints, failing to capture possession to begin a quarter in just the third period. In all, nine different Rainbow Wahine scored on the night while UH totaled 17 points to just three from UCSB.  

Hawai’i secured an outright claim to the Big West regular season title with the win, completing the third perfect run through the conference schedule since joining the Big West in 2013 and the second unbeaten conference record for UH in three seasons. Hawai’i outscored conference opponents 100-39 in 2024 and never trailed throughout seven matches in Big West play.  

The Rainbow Wahine will now wait two weeks before returning to the pool for a match on Friday, April 26 in the opening round of the Big West Championships. Hawai’i will take on the 8th seed in the tournament after securing the top seed with the match scheduled for 7 a.m. HT.  

Hawai’i survives 5-set thriller with UC Santa Barbara on Senior Night

Hawai’i survives 5-set thriller with UC Santa Barbara on Senior Night

(Left to right) Hawai’i men’s volleyball seniors Kevin Kauling, Guilherme Voss, Alaka’i Todd, Spyros Chakas, Chaz Galloway and Austin Buchanan pose after the Senior Night ceremony for photos. | Photo Credit: Michael Lasquero, HSRN

Hawai’i survives 5-set thriller with UC Santa Barbara on Senior Night 

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED MAR 30, 2024

HONOLULU – Nobody does it like Hawai’i. 

The 5th-ranked University of Hawai’i men’s volleyball team survived a five-set thriller against 20th-ranked UC Santa Barbara (7-16, 0-7 Big West) on Saturday night, turning in a heart-pounding Senior Night win that had just a bit of everything for nearly 9,000 fans in attendance, (25-21, 26-24, 23-25, 21-25, 15-12). 

Despite UCSB southpaw Geste Bianchi’s match-best 32 kills, the ‘Bows were able to hold off a feisty Gauchos unit for the 18th straight win against the Big West foe. 

Hawai’i French freshman phenom Louis Sakanoko continued his progression with a team-leading 15 kills while putting his fingerprints all over the defense with seven digs and six total blocks in the third Big West win of the season for the ‘Bows. UH posted a season-best 18.5 blocks as a unit, led by middle blocker Kurt Nusterer’s career-best 10 turnaways.

The victory pushed Charlie Wade’s squad to .500 in conference play for the first time this season. After dropping three of their first four Big West matches, Hawai’i was able to clinch the program’s third straight season of 20 wins or more with the victory against the Gauchos.  

The injured Spyros Chakas made his highly anticipated return inside Stan Sheriff Center after suffering a non-contact leg injury in the championship match of the 2024 Outrigger Volleyball Invitational, receiving an ear-splitting cheer from the crowd on hand as he was announced as a “starter” as the team’s 2nd libero. 

With emotions running high, the Rainbow Warriors (20-4, 3-3 Big West) started slowly, allowing UCSB to take the opening two points before a service error put Hawai’i on the board for the first time. UH settled in a little to take a 4-3 lead behind Alaka’i Todd’s first kill of Saturday evening, but four of the next five balls resulted in points for the Gauchos for a multi-score lead, 7-5. 

Hawai’i continued to sleepwalk through a sloppy first portion of the opening set, trailing 15-12 at first media timeout as the offense had a negative hitting percentage and UCSB outside Geste Bianchi ran wild to lift the ‘Chos. 

The break in the action played to Hawai’i’s advantage as the Rainbow Warriors came out of the timeout and rattled off four straight points to take lead,16-15, and force UCSB timeout. 

The ‘Bows continued mounting momentum as Galloway went to his own altitude for a kill after the break for UH’s first multi-point lead of the night. The Gauchos worked to tie it again at 19 before a Patrick Kane attacking error off the left pin gave Hawai’i the needed advantage once again. With three of the next four points going to the Rainbow Warriors, UC Santa Barbara called for timeout to try and stave off a 1st set loss for the second night in a row. 

The attempt proved futile as Voss crushed his first kill of the night to set up a set point chance for the ‘Bows and a Kurt Nusterer-Chaz Galloway combined block loudly ended the opening frame in favor of the home team, 25-21. 

Galloway and Voss continued the fun for Hawai’i with two of the first three points in the 2nd set, but UCSB would again tighten the contest with a constant stream of traded points to a 13-13 deadlock before snagging the next two points to push into the media timeout leading the hosts, 15-13. 

After dropping behind, Hawai’i fought back once again following the stoppage to tie things before USCB pushed close to evening the match at a set each, 24-22. Led by Kurt Nusterer at the service line, UH flipped the script with a 4-0 run to take a two-sets-to-none lead over the Gauchos with a 26-24 win. 

Hawai’i had another sloppy start to the night’s third stanza, falling behind 4-1 off the rip. Steadying back to down just a pair, the Rainbow Warriors tied the set at 13 with back-to-back kills between Sakanoko and Todd from the left and right sides, respectively. USCB sent the match to the frame’s media timeout with the next two points behind the powerful left arm of Bianchi, 15-13. The Gauchos continued their hot third set after the break, forcing two timeouts from Hawai’i while taking a commanding five-point lead, 22-17. 

While it looked like the ‘Bows might repeat the 2nd set’s script with a late comeback try, USCB successfully pushed the match to a 4th round after getting swept Friday night as a Louis Sakanoko serve sailed long to clinch a 25-23 win for the ‘Chos. 

The momentum continued to flow for the foes from Santa Barbara, using a 10-1 run in the 4th set to take control of the frame and head into another media timeout leading, 15-12. This time, the stoppage in action did not aid the ‘Bows as UCSB rolled to a 25-21 win to send the match to a critical 5th set. 

Much like their other matches this season that have gone the distance, Hawai’i tabbed Keoni Thiim as the opener to serve. The local boy and service specialist played a good ball in, but USCB would take the first point of the final frame behind Bianchi’s 29th kill of the evening. 

Sakanoko grabbed the point right back with his 13th putdown of the night and tied the set at two with #14 two rallies later. The flying Frenchman collected his 15th and final kill a few moments following to give Hawai’i the lead and sizzled an ace next for the first multi-point lead of the do-or-die 5th set.  

Then, it was Thiim Time. 

UH’s fiery flyer let the emotions fly as he powered Hawai’i to a 9-5 lead with a pair of scorchers set up by Tread Rosenthal, picking up a yellow card in the process. Rosenthal extended the ‘Bows into double-digits, 10-7, with a dunk on two before UCSB drew within one to force Wade into a timeout. 

Kurt Nusterer helped spark the electricity back into SimpliFi Arena with a massive triple block with Sakanoko and Rosenthal to make it a two-point Rainbow Warrior lead again. Traded service errors maintained the gap for Hawai’i, but a curious ruling on an Alaka’i Todd attack called an error awarded a point to the Gauchos to make it 12-11, Hawai’i. 

Another service error gave a multi-point lead to the ‘Bows and Thiim smashed his third kill of the crucial 5th set to deliver Hawai’i to the doorstep of a Senior Night victory. A red card given to Charlie Wade by the tower official gave a point and the serve to UCSB, providing one last gasp for the Gauchos in efforts for that elusive Big West win. 

Once again, it was Keoni Thiim standing in the way as he crushed his fourth kill on eight total swings to close the door on the ‘Chos, 15-13. 

Seniors Alaka’i Todd and Guilherme Voss each added 12 kills in their final regular season home game inside the Stan Sheriff Center with Todd grabbing his first career double-double by getting down and dirty with a team-high 10 digs. 

Hawai’i totaled 50 digs on the night as a unit with three different players reaching 10 digs as Rosenthal and ‘Eleu Choy put in an inspired effort for the Hawai’i faithful by getting into double-figures along with Todd.  

With business taken care of, the party could begin. 

A hoarse-voiced Charlie Wade took to the PA microphone to personally thank the thousands of fans still in attendance for sticking with the team and supporting them through the most adversity they have faced in years. In all, the special senior class could not have been so special without the fans. 

It was time for the fans to show their aloha one final time in the regular season for their volleyball heroes, giving frenzied cheers and extended standing ovations to a special six seniors that have helped deliver some of the greatest memories in the program’s storied history. 

Opening with Austin Buchanan, who has trooped his way through injuries and adversities, the fans showed how special it is to be a senior for any Hawai’i program. It continued showing to the ‘Bows newest senior, Kevin Kauling, who had transferred to the program from Lewis after multiple AVCA All-America selections to be a part of the Rainbow Warrior ‘ohana. 

The volume reached another level when it was Punahou alum and Kailua native Alaka’i Todd’s turn to take centerstage as Hawai’i showed their incredible love to their own product that proved to be the definition of working hard paying off. An all-time program great in middle blocker Guilherme Voss came next, a force in the middle that still ranks in the top 10 of blocks per set for three years running that fans could recognize as a steady advantage on national champion teams.  

Chaz “Air” Galloway, the high-flying AVCA All-American outside hitter from San Diego, California, and five-year program veteran, certainly was shown the “Aloha Spirit” in his final regular season appearance at the Stan and “felt the love” following the ceremony when interacting with supporters that stayed deep into the evening.  

Finally, the place erupted for Spyros Chakas one more time as the Greek captain crutched his way around the loop to his parents who flew in from Greece for the night, stacked with lei. The all-time program great will leave the program (along with his peers) as a two-time national champion, appearing in three consecutive NCAA title matches and an incredible 108-14 record since the beginning of the 2020 season. 

Hawai’i men’s volleyball’s senior class of 2024 left imprints all over the hearts of UH fans and wrote in ink in multiple record books. With a positive end to the home slate of the regular season, the ‘Bows will now turn their attention to a pair of important road trips against UC Irvine and UC San Diego before the Big West Championships bring them back to Mānoa.