HONOLULU — The No. 2 seed Rainbow Warrior volleyball team upset No. 1 seed Long Beach State with a 3-0 sweep at the Stan Sheriff Center in Saturday night’s championship match of the Big West Men’s Volleyball Championship. Scores for the match were 27-25, 28-26, and 25-23.

“Obviously thrilled to win the championship and it was a reversal of fortunes when we played them at their place,” Hawaiʻi coach Charlie Wade said. “That’s a really good team we played tonight so it’s a pretty significant win for our program tonight.”

Despite not besting the mark set on senior night, the 6,389 fans that showed up made their presence known. The fans especially keyed in on Beach service turns, booing multiple LBSU servers (some more than others).

“When you get the crowd going, you get that synergy effect, it’s real,” Wade said. “We’re fortunate to have just unbelievable support and they clearly impact the game in a positive way for us.”

Freshman outside hitter Alex Nikolov seemed like the only option, leading the Beach with 19 kills on 42 swings, twice as many opportunities as the next player. He also contributed from the service box with a team-high two aces but consistency eluded Nikolov, who also hit three service errors.

“It’s always something we want to do, we always want to have our guys go,” Long Beach State coach Alan Knipe said. “You can draw it up how you want but the serve and the passing game dictates a lot of the offense so we were limited by that at times, it made us look one-dimensional.”

Redshirt sophomore setter Aidan Knipe did his best to keep the play alive with his team-high eight digs. On the offensive side, Knipe leaned heavily on Nikolov, who commanded 50% of his 84 total sets.

Nikolov found himself the target of boos when he stared down ‘Bows sophomore opposite hitter Dimitrios Mouchlias after a block early in set two.

“Nothing, Alex is a great guy,” Mouchlias said when asked for a comment about the altercation with Nikolov.

Dimitrios Mouchlias vs. Long Beach State.jpg

Mouchlias had an up-and-down night on offense, tying for a team-leading 16 kills but also striking eight hitting errors. He rounded out his performance with an ace and also tied for a team-high five blocks, one solo, and four block assists.

The difference for the ‘Bows came in the diversification of the attack at the pins, sending two hitters into the double-digit kills by the end of the night. The ‘Bows attack flashed efficiency, totaling 53 kills and .368 hitting percentage to the Beach’s 43 and .275.

The offense was led by Big West Tournament MVP, junior setter Jakob Thelle, who ended the night with 43 assists on 81 attempts for a .531 lethality rate. He also kept the ball alive for the ‘Bows with a team-high 11 digs while also tacking on a block.

Sophomore outside hitter Spyros Chakas tied Mouchlias for a team-best 16 kills while only hitting two errors on 29 swings for a .483 hitting percentage. Chakas also got two assists while tacking on 4 digs and a block in his defensive contributions.

The immovable object known as the Mānoa Roofing Co. met the unstoppable swing of Nikolov, but still came out with eight total blocks. The ‘Bows also did their part to keep the rally alive, outdigging the Beach 35-32.

“We knew that we had to soften that and slow him [Nikolov] down early,” Thelle said of the defensive gameplan. “I think that all that matters in the end you just have to stop the hot guys and today we were able to do it.”

Sophomore middle blocker Guilherme Voss tied Mouchlias for the team lead with five blocks, all coming on block assists. Sophomore libero Brett Sheward came in second on the team with his nine digs while also contributing two assists on his seven sets.

Where the ‘Bows fell behind was in the service game, they matched the Beach’s three aces but hit 14 errors to LBSU’s nine. In total, The ‘Bows served inbounds at 82.3 percent but the Beach put on the pressure, serving at 88%.

After the sweep, the ‘Bows moved to a 24-5 record on the season. They will now travel to Los Angeles for the NCAA Men’s Volleyball Tournament where they will face the winner of the Princeton/North Greenville game on Tuesday, May 3 at 4:30 p.m. HST.