Hawai’i battles by UC Irvine in five sets for 11th OUTRIGGER Invitational crown

Hawai’i battles by UC Irvine in five sets for 11th OUTRIGGER Invitational crown

UH outside hitter Spyros Chakas walks to go serve the ball in a January home matchup. The senior left late in the ‘Bows 5-set win over UC Irvine Sunday night with an injury. | Photo Credit: Michael Lasquero, HSRN

Hawai’i battles by UC Irvine in five sets for 11th OUTRIGGER Invitational crown


HONOLULU – Another weekend, more incredible volleyball in the Stan. 

The Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors men’s volleyball team grabbed the 2024 OUTRIGGER Invitational title Sunday night, inching by #5 UC Irvine (13-6, 2-0 Big West) in five sets – (23-25, 25-19, 25-22, 17-25, 15-13). The victory pushed the ‘Bows current win streak to 16 games while delivering the 11th overall OUTRIGGER Invitational title in program history.

Hawai’i started out on the wrong foot, narrowly dropping the night’s opening set to the Anteaters as UH and UCI traded the lead five times and saw themselves knotted up 14 times during the first frame. Hawai’i hit just .310 to UCI’s .378 over the opening 48 points scored as they watched Anteaters’ French phenom Hilir Henno rack up a staggering 12 kills. 

Outside hitter Alaka’i Todd continued his incredible season with a quality second set, helping push the ‘Bows out to a healthy 15-12 lead midway through. Alongside Spyros Chakas, the duo helped spark Hawai’i to a convincing win in the frame and tie the match at one-all. 

In the third set, it was Keoni Thiim’s turn to take centerstage with a service run of seven points for Hawai’i after originally falling down to take the lead, 12-8. After UCI re-took the lead behind the heavy hand of Henno, it was UH’s turn to show off their French talent as freshman opposite/outside hitter Louis Sakanoko came off the bench to spark Hawai’i to a pivotal win in the set with an outstanding pancake dig and powerful kill to finish it, 25-22. 

For the third time in as many matches for UC Irvine, the Anteaters worked a match to a decisive fifth set as UCI raced out to a 12-2 lead on the way to a dominant fourth frame win by eight points – pushing the Rainbow Warriors to a do-or-die set for just the second time this season. 

Just as he did the first time the ‘Bows went to five this season, head coach Charlie Wade gave the opening serve to Thiim – changing the tides back in favor of Hawai’i as the sizzling server grabbed the first three points for the ‘Bows. 

“We did the exact same thing we did against [Loyola-Chicago] with Keoni starting as the first server and Spyros starting left front … The difference in the fifth set was Keoni’s first service turn,” Wade said of Hawai’i’s strategy for the final frame. 

Hawai’i looked to complete a hard-fought night on a high note, reaching the doorstep of victory at 14-10 before disaster struck for the ‘Bows. 

Spyros Chakas landed awkwardly on his left leg and remained on the ground for several moments after in pain before being carried off the floor by teammates. 

“Obviously we’ve got our fingers crossed in hoping that Spyros is OK,” Wade said of his star senior’s status. “They’ll get some imaging on [the left knee] and we’ll find out more here in the next 24 hours or so.” 

Wade’s team calmed itself enough to complete the win on the fourth “Aloha Ball” point chance as middle blocker Guilherme Voss powered the final kill of the night into center earth for the win, 15-13. 

UCI’s Henno finished with an obscene 36 kills – a career-high and national high mark for this season – in the loss for the Anteaters, tallying a trio of service aces for good measure. 

“[Henno]’s good, he scores in a variety of ways. He’s not just going up and banging it all the time and some of those tip and push and shoot it … I think I could set him out there *chuckle* air it out and let him go do his thing,” Hawai’i’s head coach said while praising the junior outside hitter for the Anteaters. 

Chakas led Hawai’i with 17 kills while chipping in eight digs before his injury. Alaka’i Todd racked up 13 kills while playing “Doorman” at the net with Kurt Nusterer as the two combined for 13 blocks.

The win for Hawai’i completes the non-conference portion of their schedule with a 16-1 record as focus shifts to Big West competition. The challenges only get bigger for the ‘Bows as they hit the road next week to take on pre-season conference favorites #2 Long Beach State in a two-match series.