UH holds off LBSU in 5 to win Big West championship


Colton Cowell picked the right time to have a career night.

The King Kekaulike High School graduate had a career-high 18 kills to help lead the top-ranked University of Hawaii men’s volleyball team to a thrilling five-set victory over No. 2 Long Beach State in the Big West Conference title match Saturday night in Honolulu.

With the 25-15, 25-23, 22-25, 20-25, 15-8 win, the Rainbow Warriors avenged the two regular-season losses they suffered in Long Beach, Calif., the week before.

Looking for some payback, this time in front of their own fans in a sold-out Stan Sheriff Center, the Rainbow Warriors took the lead early in the first set Saturday, pulling away for the most lopsided set score of the match.

In contrast, the second set was close throughout. Down 21-20, UH scored three straight points — two from Rado Parapunov kills — to gain the advantage. The teams sided out from there, with Cowell getting the set-sealing kill.

Service errors hurt the Rainbow Warriors in the third set, and the Beach kept the momentum in the fourth, pulling away midway through to force the fifth set.

Cowell continued his torrid pace, racking up three kills as UH closed out the match and guaranteed its spot in the NCAA Tournament.

Cowell finished with 18 kills, 12 digs, three blocks and an ace. Stijn van Tilburg had 25 kills for UH (27-2).

Kyle Ensing led the Beach (26-2) with 21 kills.