After Hawaiʻi’s winning streak was snapped on Friday to Penn State, the Rainbow Warrior volleyball team had a chip on their shoulder and looked to bounce back after losing to the Nittany Lions in four sets.
“To be honest, we were really upset,” UH opposite Dimitrios Mouchlias said. “It’s because we didn’t play well. When you lose and you don’t play well, you’re more upset.”
The top-ranked Rainbow Warriors rebounded a day later to beat No. 2 UCLA 29-27, 21-25, 25-22 and 28-26 on the final day of the OUTRIGGER Volleyball Invitational in front of a sold-out crowd at SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center.
Mouchlias led the ‘Bows with 22 kills, garnering a .390 hitting percentage Saturday night.
With middle blocker Cole Hogland still ill, Kurt Nusterer was asked to step up against UCLA. Nusterer and setter Jakob Thelle would put the game away in the fourth set with a block.
“I’d say it’s a pretty good weekend for him,” UH coach Charlie Wade said. “He works hard every day, and he’s a high-energy guy; to see him kind of get his first significant playing time against this caliber team.”
Nusterer has gotten much more comfortable and formed seemingly great chemistry with the Hawaiʻi starting lineup.
“There’s a lot of people that have been playing here before I even came here because it’s such a veteran team,” Nusterer said. “To be on the court with the people you looked up to… your heroes that you watched when you’re in high school — it’s a full circle moment.”
The first set saw the ‘Bows take an early three-point lead but they allowed the Bruins to bring the score within one after a 4-1 run. Hawaiʻi and UCLA would continue to go back and forth, keeping the set within reach. A kill by Mouchlias after a service ace by the Bruins won the ‘Bows the first set.
Hawaiʻi hit a speed bump in the second set, giving UCLA its only set victory of the game.
“We didn’t pass particularly well in the second set, even the slower balls that were coming over the net we were leaving off the net,” Wade said. “For Jakob Thelle to do Jakob Thelle things, you gotta get him on the net.”
The Rainbow Warriors went on an 11-3 run early in the third set, giving Hawaiʻi a 19-9 lead that proved too much for UCLA to recover from.
The ‘Bows would need to score more than 25 again to win the final set. Mouchlias would have nine kills in the fourth set alone.
Hawaiʻi will prepare to play its first conference game of the season against Long Beach State this Friday at the SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center at 7 p.m. HST.