Hawai'i swept Long Beach State last night in Los Angeles to win its second straight NCAA men's championship. Scores were 25-22, 25-21, 25-20. Watching the ESPN telecast made me wish I had access to physical measurements, not just the box-score data I typically use. To my (potentially fallible) eyes, the Hawai'i hitters jumped higher and hit the ball with greater velocity and downward direction than most other spikers I have seen. Whether this is actually true or not is another matter.
Hawaii's team hitting percentage of .434 (44 kills and only 8 errors on 83 attempts) and the fact Long Beach State recorded only one block all evening is certainly consistent with the Rainbow Warriors' hitting dominance that was apparent to my eyeballs. The Beach didn't hit badly either (.304, 41-17-79), just not on the same level as Hawai'i.
The championship match was actually the fourth contest between Hawai'i and Long Beach State this season. Long Beach State took a pair of 3-1 matches on its home court during Big West Conference play, whereas the Rainbow Warriors swept the Beach in the conference tourney in Hawai'i (albeit entirely in deuce games, 27-25, 28-26, 25-23).
Arguably an even bigger thorn for Hawai'i than Long Beach State was Ball State. The Cardinals swept two matches from the Rainbow Warriors back in January in Indiana (3-0 and 3-2). The teams then met for a third time in the NCAA semifinals, with UH narrowly winning (28-26, 19-25, 20-25, 25-20, 15-11). Hawai'i hit only .241 in this semifinal match, but rose to the occasion in Game 5 with a .571 percentage (9-1-14).