This season has already been a resounding success for the University of Hawaii men's volleyball team, even if they lost Tuesday against Penn State. They didn't, and the dream season continues for the Rainbow Warriors who will play in the national semifinal for the first time since 2002 on Thursday night.
"We all play this game to play the best of the best, and Ohio State is definitely that," said sophomore libero Larry "Tui" Tuileta.
The Buckeyes are the defending national champions and the top overall seed this year. To make the task more difficult, OSU also has the home court advantage, though the host site was determined years ago.
Hawaii holds the all-time edge in head-to-head meetings winning five of the six, but all were played in Manoa, and none have come in the postseason.
"We never got to play Ohio State last year when they won the national championship and we never got to play them this year, so we're super excited," said senior outside hitter Kupono Fey. "Playing on their home court is that much more special, and I think we're really excited to have them in the semifinals."
Passers like Fey and Tuileta were almost giddy at the challenge of trying to receive serves from Ohio State, a team they compared to the make-up of UCLA with aggressive serves and attacking pins.
"I think it's something we've responded to well," said head coach Charlie Wade. "We're a good receiving team, but it will be a big challenge for sure."
The Buckeyes have only lost two matches all season, but one was to UC Irvine and the other to Penn State, two teams the Rainbow Warriors beat this season.
The status of senior middle blocker Hendrik Mol is still in question as the AVCA All-America honorable mention continues to battle an ankle sprain.
"Everyday's been a little bit better," said Wade. "I know it's breaking his heart not to be able to get out there and compete, so if he's able to give us something he will."
A win Thursday would give the Rainbow Warriors their 28th win of the season, breaking the program record set back in 1996, and more importantly a shot to play for a national championship.
Said Tuileta, "we want to do it for the seniors, the coaching staff, the community, for Hawaii."
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