MVB: Plan B equals B side helping in the Warriors’ sweep of Belmont Abbey

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By Cindy Luis

Depth is a luxury.

Depth is a necessity.

Both proved true for the No. 1 Hawai’i men’s volleyball team on Thursday.

The Warriors (6-0) knew they would be without All-American setter Jacob Thelle —a conscious decision to have him remain in Honolulu during a non-conference road trip — but they also unexpectedly were without All-American outside hitter Spyros Chakas (illness) for Thursday match against Belmont Abbey.

It didn’t matter.

Behind reserves Austin Buchanan at setter and Keoni Thiim getting his first start on the outside, Hawai’i needed just 87 minutes to sweep the host Crusaders, 25-18, 25-18, 25-21 in Belmont, N.C. A standing-room-only crowd of 1,100-plus saw the Warriors extend their winning streaks to 15 overall dating to last season and 24 consecutive against non-conference opponents.

Junior opposite Dimitrious Mouchlias put down eight kills with just an error in two sets and junior hitter Chaz Galloway added seven kills in playing the entire match for Hawai’i. Junior libero Brett Sheward had 11 of the team’s 28 digs.

It was the first time that the Warriors didn’t have at least seven aces in a match this season, finishing with just two. It also was the first time Hawai’i didn’t hit above .300 (.270).

But it also was the first time that Hawai’i out-blocked a foe (16-4) this year with Galloway, Thiim and junior middle Cole Hogland all in on three.

Not having Chakas, the MVP of last May’s NCAA Tournament, ”wasn’t terribly serious,” Warriors coach Charlie Wade said. “It’s part of competitive athletics. It’s next man up.

“It’s about finding opportunities to get guys on the court, show what they can do. It was a fun environment, packed to the gills. Keoni got his first start, Austin set for a whole match. It’s valuable opportunities for our guys.”

It paid off most for Buchanan who was on the service line in Set 3 with Hawai’i trailing 20-18. By the time he left, he had two aces and the Warriors were serving for match point at 24-20.

The Crusaders (1-6) held off one match point but not a second with sophomore opposite Alaka’i Todd — in Set 3 in place of Mouchlias — putting down the last of his four kills. 

Wade was high on the 6-foot-8 Buchanan who is two inches taller than Thelle. That changes the trajectory of the sets and it has effected the timing with his hitters but, as Wade said, it’s a matter of practice.

“He’s getting experience that you can’t recreate in the practice guy,” Wade said. “He’s been a ‘B side’ guy. Just like Keoni. It’s different from practice.”

Senior hitter Matteo Miselli led BAC with 12 kills but didn’t get much help. 

The crowd of 1,154 in the Wheeler Center was the largest in the Crusaders’ history. 

“It shows how big the culture of the program is, how far the reach,” Warrior senior hitter Kana’i Akana said when asked about the draw that Hawai’i men’s volleyball has. 

“We’re used to that (being the headliner),” Wade said. “We’ll be the biggest crowd for most teams.

“Tonight was a fun, fun environment. It’s good for the sport.”

Next up for Hawai’i is Barton on Saturday (2:30 p.m. HST). The Conference Carolinas member is 0-4, coming off a 3-1 loss at home to Merrimack. 

1 Comment

  1. Much mahalos for the updates as usual Cindy! I used to live about 20 miles from Barton College. I told all my friends to go to the match because they’ll be treated to some top ranked volleyball! I wonder how much of a Hawaii contingent there might be. Amazing how the team has gelled with a lot of B side players! As Charlie Wade loves to say, Depth doesn’t mean anything unless you play them!! Go Warriors!

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