The University of Hawaii volleyball team and fans celebrated yesterday after the Warriors defeated Pepperdine 29-31, 31-29, 30-21, 30-24 in the NCAA men's volleyball championship in State College, Pa.


The UH men's volleyball team
defeats Pepperdine to win
its first national title

Isle fans cheer
He was 'Cha-Ching'

By Grace Wen

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. >> The time had finally come for the Hawaii volleyball team.

The time was theirs to become a part of history and the Warriors had come together to get over the Pepperdine hump.

And the timing couldn't have been better for Hawaii's steadiest match of the year as the Warriors defeated the Waves 29-31, 31-29, 30-21, 30-24 to win the first NCAA championship by a University of Hawaii men's team.

Hawaii is just the second team outside of California to win an NCAA men's volleyball title. Penn State won in 1994.

"I'm really happy for these guys because they worked very, very hard," Hawaii coach Mike Wilton said. "They've been a class act all year long. We've put them through a lot of things, all that challenged them conditioning-wise and all with the idea to get them ready for moments like this when they're really going to have to dig deep down.

"We played a nice match tonight. ... This was more of a controlled, steady, grind-it-out match. That's the mark of a good team."

A good team that also felt like it was playing at home. After the Warriors won Thursday, UH President Evan Dobelle had Vili "the Warrior" Fehoko and his family flown in for the title bout. Vili and Co. warmed up the crowd and swayed Penn State fans to the Hawaii side before the match.

As the University of Hawaii men's volleyball team clinched the NCAA national championship over Pepperdine yesterday, Calvin and Kelley Oshiro jumped for joy at Eastside Grill.

"It created a home-court atmosphere," Dejan Miladinovic said. "We felt like we were in Hawaii."

Before a standing room crowd of 5,357 converted fans at Recreation Hall, the second-ranked Warriors outserved one of the nation's top-serving teams and passed consistently all night.

Setter Kimo Tuyay ran a solid offense as Hawaii outhit Pepperdine .402 to .296, for the fist time this season. Tournament MVP Costas Theocharidis collected a match-high 19 kills. But this time the Warriors gave the Waves blockers more to think about as outside hitters Eyal Zimet and Tony Ching consistently hit through, around and off the block. Ching hammered 17 kills in 27 swings and Zimet added 13.

"The game plan was that we were going to ride Costas," Tuyay said. "He's our best player. We wanted to run the middle blocker away from him and set him up. But then Eyal and Tony got hot. They were getting two blockers up but still finding a way to get it through."

After Theocharidis put down the last two kills to end the match, Tuyay turned to the crowd and fought tears as he yanked off his jersey and tossed it into the crowd. Ching jumped into the crowd to hug his family as Jake Muise, Theocharidis and Dejan Miladinovic landed in a big pile on the court.

"I don't even have the words to describe what it feels like. I think I'm going to feel it a week later," Theocharidis said. "What a great team effort. Tony had a great, great performance. He left it for the end of the year. Everybody stepped up. What a big game for us. We lost three times, but we were still confident we could beat that team. ... It's an unbelievable feeling, the first championship ever."

The Warriors (24-8) outblocked the Waves by less than one, but they literally served Pepperdine off the court. Delano Thomas bombed three aces and Theocharidis had two. It was only the fourth time this season that Pepperdine (29-4) had been outserved.

"Hawaii was real consistent in serving," Waves coach Marv Dunphy said. "If you can't serve and pass with the big boys, you can't win."

Hawaii lost Game 1 by a slim margin, and it wasn't until the Warriors took Game 2 that they felt this match was in their grasp. Hawaii led 21-17 before Pepperdine used a 4-2 run to cut the Warriors' lead to two. Miladinovic blocked Fred Winters twice in three plays to give the Warriors a 26-23 advantage. But the Waves kept coming and tied the match at 28 off a kill by Sean Rooney. Ching pummeled a ball off the block to give Hawaii game point but served long on the next play. Setter Beau Daniels handed the ball right back to Hawaii after he served out and Theocharidis and Miladinovic stuffed Rooney for the game.

"We played Pepperdine three times and we couldn't get over that second game," Tuyay said. "And when we got over that game, we realized this was our match and we're not losing."

In Game 3, the Warriors never looked back after breaking away from a 15-15 tie. Hawaii racked up the points after five errors by Pepperdine and led 26-19 after a block by Miladinovic. Theocharidis nailed libero Clint Olson in the jaw at 28-21 and Pepperdine made two errors to give Hawaii a two games to one lead.

Hawaii jumped out to a 6-3 lead in Game 4 and continued to frustrate Pepperdine's offense with blocking and timely digs that forced the Waves to swing multiple times at the ball during one play. The game belonged to Hawaii as Thomas hammered a kill and Theocharidis closed out the match for the Warriors.

An hour after the match, Hawaii was reveling in its championship but already thinking ahead.

"I'm just going to soak it up," Tuyay said. "I'm going to get greedy now. I want another one next year."

>> Note: The all-tournament team included two players each from Hawaii and Pepperdine, and one each from Ball State and Penn State. Ball State's Paul Fasshauer, Penn State's Carlos Guerra and Pepperdine's Keenan and Lance Walker joined Hawaii's Ching and MVP Theocharidis on the squad. ... Hawaii returns today on United flight 61 at 6:33 p.m.



Isle fans cheer UH’s win

By Diana Leone

There's something about a winning team.

As the University of Hawaii men's volleyball team pushed past the Pepperdine Waves in the fourth and final game of the national championship yesterday, people who don't know each other were acting like best buddies at the Eastside Grill.

They were high-fiving each other. Hooting. Hollering. Generally pushing with all their collective might for the home team to pull ahead and clinch the first-ever national championship for a UH men's team sport.

And the team came through.

Diehard fan Kelley Oshiro was almost speechless when it was over.

"Ahhhhhh ... unbelievable!" she finally pronounced after a frenzy of high-fives with everyone within reaching distance. "It's been a long time coming. Not just for them, but for all the great players before them."

Like Yuval Katz, a player on the team that fell one point short of a national championship in 1996.

Like Aaron Wilton, now an assistant coach, who also was on the 1996 team.

"Everybody contributed to the game" yesterday, Oshiro said. "Tony Ching was big."

Rick Tashima used to play some intramural volleyball in college in the 1980s. Compared to his skill level, "these guys play like the NBA," he said of the UH team. He's particularly impressed that the team has come this far when its average height is shorter than other top college teams.

"I think the Hawaii team's average is about 6 feet, 4 inches," he said.

"For Hawaii to win is unreal because of the height of the players," agreed Tashima's friend, Connie Wilson. "These guys have got what it takes. They're real professionals."

Going all the way "is awesome," Tashima said.

"I think it was wonderful. I think it was terrific. It was a great performance," Bill Beauchamp said of the Warriors' triumph. "Once you hit one of those (a national championship) it's a lift to all the teams."

"They should have a parade and fill the Stan Sheriff Center," Oshiro said. "This is huge for the state and big for the athletic program. And the great thing is they're such good kids. Personally, I love the international flavor of the team. I think that exemplifies Hawaii."

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