By James Hemker
After breaking its four-game losing streak last weekend, No. 11 men’s volleyball now welcomes top-ranked Hawaii to the Farm to play matches back-to-back over the next two days.
The Cardinal (5-5, 1-1 MPSF) are fresh off an upset sweep over then-No. 7 UCLA on Feb. 8. Led by redshirt freshman libero-turned-setter Justin Lui, the offense hit a scorching .565 over the course of the match — the highest mark in over four years.
With the injury to All-MPSF senior setter Paul Bischoff, Stanford had spent the better part of a month trying to find a lineup and identity that could work with new players at the setter and libero positions.
With Lui as field general and junior opposite Leo Henken at libero, the roster found its groove. A hard-fought five-set loss to Pepperdine on Feb. 6 preceded the beat down Stanford gave to the Bruins.
Holding the top spot in the country all season, the Rainbow Warriors (12-0, 0-0 Big West) sit as the undisputed best team in the nation. Hawaii has won 10 of its 12 matches in straight sets, dropping a single frame in each of the other two.
After losing in last season’s title match to Long Beach State 3-1, the Rainbow Warriors have been on the warpath. The team ranks first in the country in hitting percentage (.391) and blocks per set (2.908). They are second in kills per set (13.82), assists per set (12.66) and opponent hitting percentage (0.176).
Both teams are led by their opposites in terms of offensive production. Junior opposite Jaylen Jasper paces the Cardinal with 4.03 kills per set, a figure which is good for seventh in the nation. He has over 40 kills more than his next teammate, and his .324 hitting efficiency leads Stanford’s pin hitters. The Rainbow Warriors have senior Rado Parapunov, whose 4.35 kills per set are third nationwide. Both players also top their team’s leaderboards in aces — Parapunov has 12, and Jasper has forced nine.
These two programs have immense history, playing each other at least twice a year from 2002 to 2017. After breaking the streak in 2018, the rivalry resumed last year, when Hawaii won six straight sets in Honolulu. Though the ‘Bows hold a four-match winning streak in the head-to-head, Stanford is 10-1 in the last 11 matches on the Farm, going back to 2008.
The first match will start at 7 p.m. PST in Maples on Friday. First serve for the second will be held in Burnham Pavilion at 7 p.m. PST on Saturday.