If a team is going to win its first national title in 17 years and a coach is going to win one at his alma mater, it might as well be in epic fashion against the reigning champs.
UCLA and two-time defending national champion Hawai’i went blow for blow Saturday night at George Mason’s EagleBank Arena in what will go down as one of the great finals in men’s college volleyball history. When the dust settled, UCLA earned it’s long-awaited 20th national championship with a 28-26, 31-33, 25-21, 25-21 victory over the Rainbow Warriors.
They even got to celebrate in the National Collegiate Men’s Volleyball Championship victory twice.
After UCLA put down a ball on a Hawai’i overpass, the Bruins stormed the court. But Rainbow Warriors coach Charlie Wade challenged that there was a net violation, so the euphoria was put on hold.
After a brief review, the point was upheld, and UCLA celebrated again.
It was the fourth national title for Bruins coach John Speraw but his first at the school where he won twice as a player.
In the process, UCLA (31-2) stopped the Rainbow Warriors (29-3) from earning a piece of history. A win would have made Hawai’i the first team since UCLA (1981-84) to win more than two titles in a row.
“All those championships are meaningful,” Speraw said when asked if this title meant more than the others because it came at the helm of his alma mater. “It’s hard to say one is more important than the other because of all the relationships and experiences that go in. And now we have these experiences with these guys, and it’s their time.
“I do feel really … I’m an alum here. So I felt I really wanted to do this for them and wanted to do it for all the guys who toiled and won and tried hard in the last number of years to get it over the top and were close … And I know it’s great for the institution. I can’t even imagine how happy everybody is at UCLA. Everybody is so into it at UCLA.”
Alex Knight was named the tournament’s most outstanding player, and he delivered across the board in the final. He had 15 kills (hitting .353), two aces, three block assists and was perfect on serve receive.
Ido David led the Bruins with 23 kills, and Merrick McHenry had 11 kills, an ace and two block assists. Freshman setter Andrew Rowan had 60 assists, an ace and a solo block.
UCLA also got a standout effort from super-senior J.R. Norris IV. Normally a reserve, Norris played a bigger-than-usual role in…
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